November 8, 2017
By Vandrevala Foundation

World Mental Health Day 2018: Mental Health Of Children And Symptoms Of Anxiety, Depression They Exhibit

World Mental Health Day 2018: Pediatrician Dr. Gorika Bansal elaborates on symptoms of poor mental health in children and how parents and caretakers can take care of children's physical and psychological health.

World Mental Health Day 2018 is observed on October 10. This day is meant to raise awareness about the importance of mental health of individuals across the world. This World Mental Health Day, we talk about the minds of children and how parents or caretakers can ensure that children are healthy both physically and mentally. Behavior in kids might be difficult to analyze. Actions such as anxiety, anger, and shyness can be a part of developmental growth and a temporary condition rather than an illness. But when troubling behaviors occur over a period of time or in a way that disrupts daily life, they are considered symptoms of mental illness or a disorder.

Conditions that are seen in adults may also be seen in children and adolescents. It is difficult to diagnose depression in kids as they tend to show irritability, anger or headaches. Whereas in adults, common symptoms of depression are low mood and sadness. So as caretakers you should be aware and vigilant enough to understand if there are any changes in your kids' behavior or s/he is exhibiting any kind of mood swings or sleep issues which have been persistent for a long time.

World Mental Health Day: Common behavior problems witnessed in children are:

1. Anxiety

2. Depression- sadness, irritability or mood swings

3. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - your child is impulsive, hyperactive and inattentive. All of this leads to poor school performance.

4. Habit disorders or tics

5. Eating disorders - like binge eating or anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa seen mainly in teens

6. Developmental disorders - including autism

7. Uncommon factors include schizophrenia and bipolar disorders which usually tend to happen in late teens or 20s.

What should alarm you as a parent - so you seek medical help:

1. Frequent mood changes

2. Feelings of anxiety with a racing heartbeat and sweaty palms

3. Increased rate of breathing on trivial issues, or extreme irritability or sadness

4. Withdrawal from activities which lasts for at least two weeks

5. Mood swings that cause problems in relationships at home or school

6. Intense feelings: Be aware of feelings of overwhelming fear for no reason sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing - or worries or fears intense enough to interfere with daily activities.

7. Behavior changes: These include drastic changes in behavior like fighting frequently expressing a desire to badly hurt others.

8. Difficulty concentrating on things and being forgetful. Look for signs of trouble focusing or sitting still, both of which might lead to poor performance in school.

9. Hyperactivity: being aggressive and impulsive.

10. Unexplained weight loss: A sudden loss of appetite, frequent vomiting or use of laxatives might indicate an eating disorder.

11. Physical symptoms: They might develop headaches and stomachaches rather than sadness or anxiety which may lead us to think of other things.

12. Physical harm: Sometimes a mental health condition leads to self-harm such as injuring yourself. Children with a mental health condition also might have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide.

13. Substance abuse: Some kids resort to drugs or alcohol to try to cope up with their feelings.

How to take care of mental health in children

1. Well, the best thing to do is ensure your child has a well-balanced diet with adequate sleep hours at night.

2. Make sure kids exercise regularly both indoors and outdoors. They should socialize with their peers both in school, playgrounds or in hobby classes.

3. Doing yoga and meditation in schools as a curriculum or having a counseling session once a week with a counselor in school should be arranged so kids can open up to them and get help with whatever is bothering them.

4. Expressing their emotions, connecting with parents and having a cordial and an encouraging environment at home really helps.

5. Keep television sets out of the kids' room. Monitor the content they viewed on mobile or TV and work towards channelizing their energy in better constructive things.

It's true that genetics play a role in determining mental health in children. If a parent is suffering from a psychiatric illness, their children are more prone to having it too. But adapting the aforementioned measures we can help in curbing the problem immensely.

Some disorders begin in childhood and continue into adolescence and adulthood. Others go away or improve with age. If a child does not receive the necessary care in time, the mental illness may continue into adulthood, creating a high risk for issues such as substance abuse like alcohol, smoking or developing an antisocial behavior. But if the problem is given a correct diagnosis and treatment at the right time, a child's future can be shaped in a positive way.

(Dr Gorika Bansal is a Visiting Consultant Pediatrician at Max Hospital, Saket and Rainbow Children's Hospital.)


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