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Warning signs in children
Posted: March 9, 2011
Last Updated: March 9, 2011

In the United States, 1 in 10 children and adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment to daily life. Yet, in any given year, it is estimated that fewer than 1 in 5 of these children receives treatment. Untreated childhood disorders are costly, in both human and fiscal terms. Let us not forget that mental health is a factor in every child’s life, a factor that is sometimes overlooked.

Children can suffer mental disorders due to many factors; the two most common are biological and environmental factors. Biological factors can include chemical imbalances in the body, genetic conditions, and damage to the central nervous system and head injury. Unfortunately, the most common cause for mental illness in children is environmental factors including exposure to toxins like high levels of lead, exposure to violence, family violence, stress, and loss of important relationships in their life through death of a loved one, divorce, or broken friendships.

Children with mental health issues need to receive help as soon as possible. The sooner children receive mental health services the better chance they have for recovering. Parents should be aware of the warning signs of childhood mental illness so they can spot them and assist their child reach out and receive help.

If a child is troubled by feeling:

§  Sadness or hopelessness for no reason and the feelings do not go away.

§  Worthless or guilty often.

§  Anxious or worried often.

§  Very angry, cries a lot or overreacting to things.

§  Unable to cope with the loss or death of someone important.

§  Overly concerned with physical appearance including fixating on weight.

§  Extremely fearful or having unexplained fears.

Big changes in life can cause stress and anxiety. As adults we forget how significant changes in daily life can deeply affect children, who can lack basic coping skills that adults have acquired through the years. Adolescents and children experiencing life-altering changes such as the following might be experiencing stress that could lead to mental disorders:

§  Declining performance in school.

§  Losing interest in things they once enjoyed.

§  Experiencing unexplained changes in sleeping or eating patterns.

§  Avoiding friends or wanting to be alone.

§  Avoiding school by acting sick or truancy.

§  Hearing voices that cannot be explained.

§  Experiencing suicidal thoughts.

Stress, change, fear, and lifestyle adjustments are common issues faced by families today. Adults can deal with such situations easier than children; adults might forget how uncertain the world is for children today. Remember to talk to your child about their daily life and be aware of their moods and behaviors so when changes happen you can be aware of them and respond accordingly. Remember not every child having a sleeping problem is depressed, but continued sleeping problems can point to unstated anxiety or stressor that might be affecting your child’s health. Talking with your child can help ease their mind, but if your child’s issues are beyond talking and you are worried seek out help.

If you would like to learn more about children’s mental health call Border Area Mental Health Services. To reach Border Area Mental Health Services in Grant and Hidalgo Counties, call 388-4412; in Catron County, call 533-6649; in Luna County, call 546-2174.  For CRISIS, call 538-3488 or outside Silver City, call 1-800-426-0997.


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© 2008 by Border Area Mental Health Services and Putting the Web to Work. Front-page photo copyright by Bob Pelham, Pinos Altos Cabins, and used by permission. All rights reserved. For the privacy and comfort of our clients and staff, the photographs used in this site are representative and do not show specific individuals associated with BAMHS.