What should I do if I think my child has a mental illness?

Dear Daughters,

Mental illness is a very touchy subject,even more mental illness in children, however we need to discuss it. As a mother of 4 beautiful children I never thought it would happen to any of my children but it did. There were so many signs but I missed them, but now a days there are some many resources that we don’t need to live in the clouds  or be ashamed about mental illness anymore.

Research shows that half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14. Scientists are discovering that changes in the body leading to mental illness may start much earlier, before any symptoms appear. Helping young children manage difficulties early in life may prevent the development of disorders. Once mental illness develops, it becomes a regular part of a child’s behavior and more difficult to treat.

If you notice something unusual, talk to your child’s doctor or health care provider. Ask questions and learn everything you can about the behavior or symptoms that worry you.

If your child is in school, ask the teacher if your child has been showing worrisome changes in behavior. Share this with your child’s doctor or health care provider.

Keep in mind that every child is different. Even normal development, such as when children develop language, motor and social skills, varies from child to child.

Ask the doctor if your child needs further evaluation by a specialist with experience in child behavioral problems. Specialists may include:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Social workers
  • Psychiatric nurses
  • Behavioral therapists
  • Educators

Do not be afraid to interview more than one specialist to find the right fit. Continue to learn everything you can about the problem or diagnosis. The more you learn, the better you can work with your child’s doctor and make decisions that feel right for you, your child and your family.

Not every problem is serious. In fact, many everyday stresses can cause changes in your child’s behavior. For example, the birth of a sibling may cause a child to temporarily act much younger than he or she is.

It is important to be able to tell the difference between typical behavior changes and those associated with more serious problems. Pay special attention to behaviors that include:

  • Problems across a variety of settings, such as at school, at home or with peers
  • Changes in appetite or sleep
  • Social withdrawal, or fearful behavior toward things your child normally is not afraid of
  • Returning to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bed-wetting, for a long time
  • Signs of being upset, such as sadness or tearfulness
  • Signs of self-destructive behavior, such as head-banging or a tendency to get hurt often
  • Repeated thoughts of death

looking out for these signs may not stop mental illness, but it will help  to prepare you to battle it.

As Always,

Love Mom


  • American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: www.aacap.org

Some content on this page was gathered from documents found on the website for the National Institute of Mental Health: www.nimh.nih.gov

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