Mental Health in Children and Young People
Good mental health in children and young people is key to how they feel, think, respond to other people and their environment and how it affects their mood, self-esteem and behaviour and ultimately, how it affects the quality of day to day life for them and their families. Good mental health provides the roadmap for children in how they make choices, decisions that affect not just their day to day life, but also their future wellbeing, relationships, and careers.
About 15% of children and young people in developed countries, such as the United Kingdom, are affected by mental health problems of some kind. These can include anxiety, depression, and conduct disorder. It can be as a direct result of something that has happened or changed in their lives, a recent trauma, or it can relate to developmental issues, attachment issues and foundational issues that are not typically identified and supported through treatment or therapies.
Adolescents often experience emotional challenges as their minds and bodies change. Hormone levels fluctuate and often their outward behaviour can appear to be similar to that of young toddlers. Some teenagers will find it hard to undergo this transition and are reluctant to share or express their feelings to parents or caregivers. They may instead only trust friends or may experiment with alcohol, drugs (self-medicating attempts), or other avenues that detrimentally affect good mental health.
Most of the children and young people who experience problems with their mental health do not receive appropriate interventions at an early age, often due to the social stigma that is attached to mental health issues or through well-intentioned procrastination by adults around them.
Children and young people do not always articulate that they have issues. Mental health problems can affect anyone, regardless of demographic, family background and economic status. It is important for parents and caregivers to be familiar with what can trigger possible issues and make sure that they offer validation and support for children and young people as soon as possible. This does not necessarily mean referral to professionals, it is important that children and young people are able to articulate their thoughts to an adult, in a safe, respectful, comforting environment where their concerns are validated and listened to without judgement. If parents are unable to fulfil this role, then it is important that they facilitate another avenue, perhaps by informing school, suggesting a mentor (another relative or friend) or refer to a professional.
Mental Health Problems that occur in children and young people:
- Self-Harm: not necessarily suicidal. Many children / young people will cut/ burn themselves, pull out eyelashes, etc., as an outlet for extreme emotional intensity/ pain.
- Eating Disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia. More prone to teenagers, especially girls.
- Bowel/Bladder disorders (control issues)
- ADHD/ ADD
- Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: witnessing or suffering a traumatic event(s), victims of physical / sexual abuse, surviving a disaster, sudden bereavement.
- Attachment Disorder
Risk factors are higher in certain circumstances; however, it does not necessarily follow that mental difficulties are probable, and each case must be considered individually.
The incidence of mental health difficulties is higher when:
- The child or a close family member has a long-term physical illness or a terminal illness.
- A parent / caregiver has mental health problems
- A parent or caregiver has addiction problems: alcohol, substance abuse, gambling, conduct disorder.
- Parents who separate/ divorce.
- A child is adopted
- A child is bullied, physically or on social media.
- Friendships breakdown: conflict resolution and feeling of rejection or failure.
- Abuse: sexual, violence, mental.
- Discrimination: race, religion, gender, appearance, sexuality.
- Unstable home environment: no fixed abode, living in poverty.
- Sensory and Neurodevelopmental foundational issues are not identified, understood, and addressed, often misdiagnosed. Child or young person is left to underperform.
How can Maximum Potential help?
Our Clinical and Educational Psychology and Play Therapy team work closely with parents, children and adolescents using a range of assessments and treatments designed to understand the problem, work through it, and find strategies and solutions. Most often, it will be in the form of talking therapies, but in younger children can be through play therapy.
We offer support for parents, families, teenagers, and younger children through 1:1 support, as siblings, as a family and in small groups with other children / parents.
Our mental health team works closely with the OTs, Physios and SALTs on our team and we can offer cross-disciplinary intervention if indicated, which is highly effective.
Please contact us directly if you would like further information about the services offer.