Mental Health Is Important
Mental health is how people think, feel, and act as they face life’s situations. It affects how people handle stress, relate to one another, and make decisions. Mental health influences the ways individuals look at themselves, their lives, and others in their lives. Like physical health, mental health is important at every stage of life.
All aspects of our lives are affected by our mental health. Caring for and protecting our children is an obligation and is critical to their daily lives and their independence.
Children and Adolescents Can Have Serious Mental Health Problems
Like adults, children and adolescents can have mental health disorders that interfere with the way they think, feel, and act. When untreated, mental health disorders can lead to school failure, family conflicts, drug abuse, violence, and even suicide. Untreated mental health disorders can be very costly to families, communities, and the health care system.
In this fact sheet, “Mental Health Problems” for children and adolescents refers to the range of all diagnosable emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders. They include depression, attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and anxiety, conduct, and eating disorders. Mental health problems affect one in every five young people at any given time.
“Serious Emotional Disturbances” for children and adolescents refers to the above disorders when they severely disrupt daily functioning in home, school, or community. Serious emotional disturbances affect 1 in every 10 young people at any given time.
Mental Health Disorders Are More Common in Young People than Many Realize.
Studies show that at least one in five children and adolescents have a mental health disorder. At least one in 10, or about 6 million people, have a serious emotional disturbance.
The Causes Are Complicated
Mental health disorders in children and adolescents are caused mostly by biology and environment. Examples of biological causes are genetics, chemical imbalances in the body, or damage to the central nervous system, such as a head injury. Many environmental factors also put young people at risk for developing mental health disorders. Examples include:
Exposure to environmental toxins, such as high levels of lead;
Exposure to violence, such as witnessing or being the victim of physical or sexual abuse, drive-by shootings, muggings, or other disasters; Stress related to chronic poverty, discrimination, or other serious hardships; and
The loss of important people through death, divorce, or broken relationships.
Signs of Mental Health Disorders Can Signal a Need for Help
Children and adolescents with mental health issues need to get help as soon as possible. A variety of signs may point to mental health disorders or serious emotional disturbances in children or adolescents. Pay attention if a child or adolescent you know has any of these warning signs:
A child or adolescent is troubled by feeling:
Sad and hopeless for no reason, and these feelings do not go away. Very angry most of the time and crying a lot or overreacting to things.
Worthless or guilty often.
Anxious or worried often.
Unable to get over a loss or death of someone important.
Extremely fearful or having unexplained fears.
Constantly concerned about physical problems or physical appearance.
Frightened that his or her mind either is controlled or is out of control.
A child or adolescent experiences big changes, such as:
Showing declining performance in school.
Losing interest in things once enjoyed.
Experiencing unexplained changes in sleeping or eating patterns.
Avoiding friends or family and wanting to be alone all the time.
Daydreaming too much and not completing tasks.
Feeling life is too hard to handle.
Hearing voices that cannot be explained.