Mental Health is Important

“Mental health” refers to how people think, feel and act as they face life’s situations. Our mental health affects how we handle stress, relate to one another and make decisions. And mental health influences the way 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, and protecting our children’s mental health is a natural part of our parental obligation. Caring for our children—emotionally as well as physically—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 are often very costly to families, communities and the health care system.

Mental Health Disorders are More Common in Young People than Many Realize

Studies show that at least 1 in 5 children and adolescents have a mental health disorder at any given time. Yet, fewer than one in five of these children receive the mental health services they need. Among young people, at least 1 in every 10 has a serious emotional disturbance at any given time.


Symptoms of Mental Health Disorders Can Signal a Need for Help

Children and adolescents with mental health issues need to be helped as soon as possible. A variety of signs may point to mental health disorders or serious emotional disturbances in children or adolescents. Some warnings signs are:

    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, crying a lot and overreacting to things.
  • Worthless or feeling 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 is either being controlled or is out of control.

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    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.
  • Experiencing suicidal thoughts.

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    A child or adolescent experiences:
  • Poor concentration and is unable to think straight or make up his or her mind.
  • An inability to sit still or focus attention.
  • Worry about being harmed, hurting others, or doing something “bad”.
  • A need to wash, clean things, or perform certain routines many times a day, in order to avoid an unsubstantiated danger.
  • Racing thoughts that are almost too fast to follow.
  • Persistent nightmares.

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    A child or adolescent behaves in dangerous ways that cause problems, such as:
  • Using alcohol or other drugs.
  • Eating large amounts of food and then purging, or abusing laxatives, to avoid weight gain.
  • Dieting and/or exercising obsessively.
  • Violating the rights of others or constantly breaking the law without regard for other people.
  • Setting fires.
  • Doing things that can be life threatening.
  • Hurting or killing animals.

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    Important Messages about Child and Adolescent Mental Health:
  • Every child’s mental health is important.
  • Many children have mental health problems.
  • These problems are real, painful, and can be severe.
  • Children with mental disorders, particularly depression, are at a higher risk for suicide. An estimated 90 percent of children who commit suicide have a mental disorder.
  • Mental health problems can be recognized and treated.
  • Caring families, professionals and communities working together can help.

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