For children who grow up in foster care, life is unpredictable. They have to struggle with the instability that comes with moving from family to family, while trying to cope with the reasons why they are unable to stay with their biological family. Because of these challenges and others, children in foster care are more at risk for mental health issues than children in the general population. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics calls mental health issues the “largest unmet health need for children and teens in foster care.”
When you think of someone struggling with depression, what comes to mind? You probably imagine someone who is sad, withdrawn, has low energy and is constantly tired, or has a decreased mood. And you would be right. These are some of the most common symptoms of depression in children and adolescents.
When we talk about mental health and wellness in children, we often focus on what adults are doing – being vigilant for the warning signs, getting kids into the right treatment programs, raising awareness in our communities. Sometimes in all our efforts to raise awareness and advocate for our kids, adults forget that young people themselves have tremendous power to change their worlds and the lives of those around them.Sometimes it’s a simple as having someone to sit next to at lunch.
The stigma surrounding mental health can cause a gap in awareness for parents and lead to myths concerning child mental illness. Awareness is clearly needed for parents; according to research published by the NIH, the first onset of most mental health disorders usually occurs before the age of 14. Yet this report from the Child Mind Institute notes that millions of children with a diagnosable mental illness are not being treated.
What keeps children from getting the treatment they need? Sometimes, parents don’t know what to look for. Other times, access to treatment is a problem. There are also the myths about mental illness. Due to feelings of shame or misunderstandings about mental illness, some parents fear taking their child in to be diagnosed or “labeled.” Considering the long-term consequences of untreated mental illness in children, these myths must be debunked. Below are five common mental health myths and the truth behind them:
Marijuana use among American teenagers is disturbingly common. According to the CDC, 38% of high school students say they’ve tried marijuana at least once. And the prevailing attitude is that smoking pot is “no big deal.” According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 71% of high school seniors say they don’t view marijuana as being very harmful. Yet there is a growing body of evidence that marijuana use – especially in kids who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – can have immediate negative side effects, and can lead to more serious mental illness like psychosis, anxiety or depression.
Bipolar Disorder – it’s a clinical term that’s often used in popular culture in a way that’s completely different than the clinical meaning of the term. For example, many of us have heard someone say, “He’s so bipolar” if someone is being moody. Many of my clients come to me concerned that they are struggling with Bipolar Disorder because they’ve been feeling more irritable than usual. When this happens, after a thorough assessment most of my clients’ concerns are unfounded. But the reason they were concerned is based on popular misconceptions about Bipolar Disorder. In reality, the clinical diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder is much more complex than someone being occasionally moody. Unfortunately, because Bipolar Disorder is often misunderstood in this way, it can make recognizing the signs of clinical Bipolar Disorder in your child hard to spot.
If you are wondering whether or not your child may have Bipolar Disorder, keep the following in mind: