Mental Health in children and young adults

mental health in children

Mental health disorders amongst children and young adults are sometimes described as serious changes in the way children handle their behaviours.  Which can also lead to the way they learn or as young adults the way they deal with day to day life. There are also disorders that can also result in a diagnosis such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or as it’s usually known as ADHD.

I was quite surprised to learn that one in six children aged between five and sixteen have or had in the past a mental health problem, which has increased but a staggering 50% in the last three years but is it surprising?

Lockdown affected so many youngsters in many different ways

For children from preschool age up to young adults, it was all about contact with family and friends, personally, this is what we went through with my now five year old.  He is an only child and missed his friends at preschool, and desperately missed his regular contact with his grandparents whom he would see on a regular basis.

Those children that have siblings, who may or may not have had good relationships before lockdown will have changed.  People had different feelings towards this, I spoke to parents whose children had fallen out one day and then were best friends the next.  Many older children who spent time with friends rather than their siblings were now with them twenty-four hours a day seven days a week.  It either made or broke their relationships, just like it did with adults.

It is difficult to know how to identify the signs of when children are suffering with mental health issues, some are more obvious than others.

  • Constant tiredness from lack of sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • No interest in any activities that usually they enjoy
  • Lack of concentration on anything
  • Tearfulness or anger

Unfortunately, these symptoms are quite common, but fortunately most of the time these can be treated with support and the possibility of help from the GP or a referral for further help for them.

What causes mental health issues in children and young adults?

There are some children and/or young adults that go through some form of depression because their genes are more sensitive to mental health issues, genes of family members who have suffered with depression in the past can be inherited. Admittedly as a sufferer of depression I do worry that my son will inherit this, so being conscious I’m prepared and on the lookout for tell tale signs.

Some will have gone through this journey due to stressful events in their life, such as family illness, loss or any sort of trauma. Extra support for that child can be of a great benefit to them, even if they seem reluctant to do so.

Things you can do

Talk to your child, they need that reassurance that they can talk to their parents about anything.  Being patient and just sitting and listening to them is also important, it’s sometimes too easy to pass judgment and make a split decision for them when in fact they just may just want you to listen.

If they will, take them to see their GP.  Sometimes this can be difficult for them to open up which is why it’s so important to listen to them before you think that going to the GP is a good idea. The GP may do a health check in the first instance, to check your child’s symptoms and whether they are hiding an underlying health issue.

The most important thing is spending time with them, even if it means sitting and playing a game, cooking their favourite dish or watching and laughing at their favourite (funny) television show. There is always something (age appropriate) that will help them to open up, but you just have to have the patience and kindness to gently encourage them.

Things not to do or say

Be impatient with them and don’t try and finish off their sentences.  If they’re struggling this is one of the worst things you can do. Imagine you’re both sitting waiting for the cake to bake in the oven and he starts to tell you about school.  He struggles to find the words, you know what he wants to say so you interrupt and finish his sentence.  This can be so discouraging and can have a decremental effect on your relationship with them.

Predicting what can happen is a definite no-go area in my opinion, many times where I’ve been going through something traumatic and have been told by someone else that “Oh I’ve been through that…” or “It will get better eventually…”  These phrases really do not help, just like the typical “It could be worse…” which sometimes can be helpful if you’re saying it to help yourself, but not when trying to help others.

Remember what it was like

Dig deep into your past, I’m sure if you could you’d find a time when you felt either the same way as they do now or you knew someone who went through this.  Don’t tell them this, but imagine you’re with that person or your younger self and understand what they’re going through.  Even making their favourite drink for them would reassure them that you’re there for them.

If you are a parent of a child who is going through depression, please know that there is support out there for the whole family.


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