It is easy for parents to identify children’s physical needs such as good food, safe housing, and plenty of sleep and exercise. Children’s mental and emotional needs may not be as obvious, but they are just as important. Good mental health allows children to develop socially, and intellectually, build self-esteem, learn new skills, and develop a positive mental outlook.
Children’s mental health problems are real, common, and treatable. Although one in five children has a diagnosable mental health problem, nearly two-thirds of them get little or no help. Untreated mental health problems can disrupt children’s functioning at home, school, and in the community. Without treatment, children with mental health issues are at increased risk of school failure, contact with the criminal justice system, dependence on social services, and even suicide.
Parents and family members are usually the first to notice if a child has problems with emotions or behavior. Your observations, along with those of teachers and other caregivers, can help determine whether you need to seek help for your child.
The following signs may indicate the need for professional help:
- Decline in school performance
- Poor grades despite strong efforts
- Constant worry or anxiety
- Repeated refusal to go to school or to take part in normal activities
- Hyperactivity or fidgeting
- Persistent nightmares
- Persistent disobedience or aggression
- Frequent temper tantrums
- Depression, sadness, or irritability
Early identification, diagnosis and treatment can help children reach their full potential. If you suspect a problem or have questions, talk with your child’s pediatrician or contact a mental health professional.
Signs of good mental health in children include:
- Has friends and gets along with other children
- Can concentrate and focus attention
- Has relatively stable eating and sleeping patterns
- Shows reasonable interest and progress in school
- Satisfied at least some of the time with most aspects of life such as family, friends, school, physical appearance
- Does not become anxious or angry over minor inconveniences or setbacks
- Fears are reasonable and not excessive
- Shows respect for other people
- Maintains a reasonable amount of energy throughout the day
- Has hobbies and enjoys in different activities
Source: Mental Health America