World Mental Health Day 2018: 7 Things That Affect Your Child's Mental Health and How You Can Help
(Photo Credits: WHO)

Children are the apple of our eyes, and for many parents their greatest sense of pride and joy. From conception itself, children serve as a means of completing their parent’s unfulfilled dreams and wishes. The parent-child bond is one of the purest, strong and enduring connections between two people, which lasts a lifetime. Every year on October 10, WHO observes World Mental Health Day. This year, the theme is Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World. Let’s take a look at some of the illnesses or situations that can hamper you youngster’s emotional health.

1 Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): It is characterised by an inability to sit at one place for a continuous period, or difficulty in concentration and high amount of impulsivity. This is also associated with a high degree of co-morbid mental illness due to its secondary effect. Medicines, therapy, dietary changes and parental counselling help; but first establishing the diagnosis is essential. Global Warming and Climate Change Have Been Causing Depression, Anxiety and Suicidal Behaviour.

2 Depression: Childhood depression has a prevalence rate of 2 percent, which more than doubles in adolescence. Risk of self-harm is also an alarming matter. It is important to remember that children may not be able to identify their sadness, and usually, the presenting complaints may vary between irritability and anger outbursts to withdrawn behaviour.  Why Mental Health of Youngsters Should Be Taken Seriously.

3 Abuse: Child sexual and physical abuse is a major cause for concern, and one should be able to spot the signs and symptoms of trauma; as well as the appropriate authorities to reach out to.

4Separation Anxiety: Anxiety on being away from attachment figures or caregivers is common in children, and most will adapt to this as they grow. However, in extreme cases, this can lead to Separation Anxiety which may need medicines or therapy to be managed.

5 Learning Disabilities: These are characterised by a difficulty in understanding the written word or numbers. They are very distressing to the children who suffer from them and maybe a huge source of stress, resulting in serious loss of self-esteem and confidence. Early assessment and intervention enable children to better deal with this.

6 Bullying: Bullying is a menace both to the perpetrator and the victim. It is associated with long-lasting Psychological Trauma and scaring, resulting in problems of mood disorders, decreased self-esteem, Anxiety, etc. Establishing awareness building programs in school is one of the needs of the hour. We also need to be watchful about cyberbullying and trolling that our kids can get exposed to.

7 Indifference from parents: By far the worst situation for a child’s emotional health is an indifferent or a rigid and authoritarian parenting style, this may hamper a child’s emotional maturing. ‘Tiger’ or ‘Helicopter Parenting’ is also not recommended as it can make a child excessively anxious and dependent.

Here are a few things that you can do actively take care of your child’s emotional health:

 Secure home: Create a warm, welcoming and safe atmosphere at home for your child to return to. This is one of the biggest necessities in the development of an emotionally healthy child.

Life skills: Teach your child the essential soft skills such as critical thinking, leadership styles, active listening, empathising, controlling impulsivity, delaying gratification, etc.

 Parenting: There is no perfect way to ‘parent’ a child. But a flexible, permissive approach with clearly established ground rules is a good place to start.

 Avoid comparisons: While healthy competition is necessary for a child’s competitive attitude; constant and unreasonable comparison may actually create a big difficulty and can trigger off intense sibling rivalries or permanently damage fragile budding friendships.

Every child is his person: So don’t expect them to follow your expectations and aspirations blindly. Enable them to have an independent mind and nurture & guide them, but leave their. decisions to themselves once they grow up.

Let them have their childhood: Ensure that your child develops at least one hobby and participates in at least one sport. Also, allow them to have some leisure time.

Time-Please: Create a tradition of ‘time-please’ were your child can speak freely with you without the fear of judgement or reprimand. Preserve the sanctity of that trust.

Circle of trust: Discuss and establish a circle of trust and an emergency protocol that your child can reach out to in case of trouble. Teach them to run or scream and show them how to get help if they are ever in a threatening situation.

Build your feedback system: Keep yourself informed of who their friends and reach out to them or their parents. Remember you are in the same boat and that kids gossip just like adults. Also, remember to get regular feedback…both good and bad from their teachers. Doing this makes you aware of how your child is fairing and helps identify any areas of concern immediately.

Monitor: Monitor activities but don’t smother them under the weight of their books and timetables.

 Expressing Love: Don’t tire of telling your children that you love them and that you are there for them, they are never going to tire of hearing that reassurance.

Young adults are often at crossroads of life, changing schools, leaving homes and starting new jobs. It can be an exciting time, but also one of stress and apprehension. According to WHO, fifty percent of all mental illnesses take shape during childhood. If not recognised and treated, these mental health problems can dictate their lives. The need of the hour is to expand the use of technologies to identify and give our help to anyone in need of support.

(This article has been contributed by  Dr Kedar Tilwe, Consultant Psychiatrist & Sexologist, Hiranandani hospital Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital)