Ways to support children's mental health

Ways to support children's mental health

Each year we see a rise in mental health issues experienced by people. However, on a positive note, the awareness regarding mental health is spreading and more people are open to seeking help.

According to the Association for Children’s Mental Health (ACMH), one in five children and youth have some kind of diagnosable emotional, behavioural, or mental health disorder. Also, it is estimated that one in ten adolescents have mental health problems.

It is, therefore, imperative for parents and other caretakers to identify if a child is going through mental health concerns, as against behaviour changes that are attributed to normal growth and development during this age. 

Some of the most common mental health issues are:

Anxiety: Anxiety disorders in students are persistent fears, worries that prevents them from participating in any typical age-appropriate social activities or situations. 

Depression: Depression is persistent feelings of hopelessness and loss of interest that disrupt a student’s ability to function in school and interact with others. 

Eating disorders: Eating disorders are defined as abnormal eating habits that results in emotional and social dysfunction and life-threatening physical complications. A person experiencing eating disorders is preoccupied with their body type and their weight. They engage in unsafe eating habits. 

Suicidal tendencies: Many students experience frustration and hardship, but sometimes those thoughts gain intense momentum, bringing students to a place where they feel the need to end the pain. It is important to warn an adult and raise a red flag if you notice these signs.

Sleep disorders: Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, is a serious condition causing damage to both the mental and physical health of a person experiencing it.

Warning signs to look out for:

Persistent sadness for two or more weeks

Withdrawing oneself from or avoiding social interactions

Self harm or talking about self harm 

Talking about death or suicide

Outbursts or extreme irritability

Out-of-control behaviour that can be harmful

Extreme changes in mood, behaviour and/or personality

Changes in eating habits

Loss of weight

Difficulty in sleeping

Frequent headaches or stomach aches

Difficulty to concentrate

Changes in academic performance

Avoiding or missing school

How can caregivers support their child’s mental health?

Help children build strong, caring relationships: Children and youth need to have strong relationships with family and friends. Parents play a crucial role in helping children develop resilience.

Listen, and respect their feelings: Encourage youth to talk about how they feel. Let them know that, it is okay for them to feel sad, upset or angry. Keep communication and conversation flexible and flowing by asking questions and listening to your child. Help them find someone who they feel comfortable to talk to.

Create a safe, positive home environment: Be aware of your children's media use, the content and the amount of time spent on screens. Ensure to spend some quality time with you children on a daily basis.

Be a role model: Express your feelings, seek help, do not hesitate to reach out to a professional who will help and guide you towards supporting your children.

How can students enhance their mental wellbeing?

Awareness plays an important role in taking care of one’s mental wellbeing. The more aware the young adults are, the less susceptible they will be to factors that can cause concerns.

Engage in these activities to build better mental health: 

Eat a wholesome meal 

Get plenty of sleep

Exercise regularly

Stay connected with friends and family

Open up to someone you trust 

Engage in one act of kindness daily

Be creative and spend time on productive tasks

Limit screen time. Select offline and no screen activities

Focus on one thing at a time

Let us all remember that each child is unique. Children have their own ways to coping with challenging situations. Hence, as adults it is important to allow them to make their own choices and supporting and guiding them. 

(The author is a senior school counselor)