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 You probably imagine someone who is sad, withdrawn, has low energy and is constantly tired, or has a decreased mood.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.
How Military Parents Miss the Warning Signs of Mental Illness in their Kids
“I can’t believe I didn’t see this sooner.”
It’s an agonizing moment when you realize your child is possibly dealing with a mental illness. You’re a good parent, you care about your kids, and yet somehow in the midst of your busy military family life, you missed the signs.
According to Jill Palmer, Clinic Director at the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors in San Antonio, you’re not alone. Military families face enormous stress with moving every few years, starting new schools, adapting to new communities and everything that comes with military life. And this stress makes it easy to miss the signs of an underlying mental illness.
Turn on the news or check your phone updates and it seems like we are being inundated with the news of traumatic events around the world, in our hometowns, and in our schools. It can be overwhelming as adults, but imagine how overwhelming it can be for children. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that our children are affected by the traumatic events around them even if they can’t articulate the impact they have on them at times. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) estimates that about two thirds of U.S. children have experienced a traumatic event by age sixteen but have difficulty coping with the impact of that trauma. If left unaddressed, the effects of trauma can impact a child’s ability to thrive in school. Here’s what you need to know about helping children thrive in school (and life) despite the trauma they’ve experienced.
With the overabundance of media outlets today, many adults have difficulty discerning the line between reality and fantasy, so it should come as no surprise when children experience these same feelings. And when the images show a nonstop barrage of war, shutdowns, terrorism and violence, a military child can experience anxiety, fear and confusion. They may not know that person in uniform on TV, but it’s someone who looks like Mom or Dad.
Military parents can help allay those negative feelings by talking to their children and validating their very real concerns.
Turning 18 is a significant milestone for children and parents alike. It’s a rite of passage that children look forward to, as they think "Finally, I can make decisions on my own." On the other hand, parents typically feel some sort of apprehension about their child entering the perils of the adult world. “Where did the time go,” they wonder, and “Will they be okay on their own?” That apprehension is likely intensified for parents of children who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
With the recent heart-wrenching images of migrant children in the news, there is an increased awareness of the unique mental health needs of migrant and refugee children. Since 1980, there have been about 3 million refugees who have resettled in the US and 35-40% of them were children, according to the organization Bridging Refugee Youth & Child Services. Being exposed to a range of physical and psychological stressors places these refugee children at higher risk for physical and mental health issues requiring treatment. Sadly, research cited by the National Institutes of Health has found that refugees are less likely to seek mental health treatment. This could be due to a lack of understanding of mental illness and treatment options in general, and the fact that it is often more difficult for refugee children to access the mental health services they need.