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The Hidden Struggle Series: #1 Unpacking the Factors Behind Children's Mental Health Issues

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

"Children are not immune to mental health problems. We owe it to them to help recognise their struggles, & support their healing!"


Mental health is a critical aspect of a child's well-being and overall development. It affects how they think, feel, and behave. It can impact their relationships with others, their academic performance, and their overall quality of life. Good mental health is essential for children to reach their full potential in both personal and academic life.


Children today face a wide range of challenges in their daily lives that can lead to mental health issues. For instance, a 14-year-old boy went missing from his home after leaving for a bicycle ride. Luckily, the child was found and reunited with his parents after two to three days. He revealed that he ran away due to fear of his parent's reaction to his low scores in school exams. In another case, a news report mentioned a 16-year-old girl committed suicide by jumping off a tower for unknown reasons. As parents, teachers & caregivers, we are deeply affected by such incidents and wonder what leads children to take such drastic steps.



sad children

Other problems parents often encounter with their children include situations where younger kids throw tantrums if their wishes are not met or teens can't control their anger when scolded by parents for the overuse of a mobile phone. We also hear of children suddenly losing interest in academics and turning restless.



All these examples might seem insignificant at first, but these kids could be exhibiting signs of an underlying mental health issue or maybe progressing towards them. Therefore it is essential to address them promptly. Mental health issues impact our child's ability to learn, interact with others, behaviour, and academics. Some children with mental health concerns experience physical symptoms like headaches, nausea or disturbed sleep. These symptoms might seem small, but they hinder their daily life. If left untreated, it can have long-term consequences.


Did you know, as per WHO, mental health issues are a major pandemic of the 21st Century?


Sharing some alarming statistics from 3 countries:


India:

  • The prevalence of mental disorders in the age group 13-17 years was 7.3% and nearly equal in both genders. Nearly 9.8 million young Indians aged between 13-17 years are in need of active interventions. The prevalence of mental disorders was nearly twice (13.5%) in urban metros compared to rural (6.9%) areas. [1]

UK:

  • Over time, there is an increase in the prevalence of mental disorders in 5 to 15-year-olds. Rising from 9.7% in 1999 and 10.1% in 2004 to 11.2% in 2017. [2]

USA:

  • 21.9% of children (3-17 years) have a mental, emotional, developmental or behavioural problem. [3]


The statistics about rising mental health problems in children and young people should be a wake-up call for all of us. One approach is to keep addressing the symptoms from time to time. The other is to identify why and how it happens and prevent it from repeating in their lives. The first approach involves managing the symptoms of mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and behavioural issues, through counselling, therapy, medication, or a combination of these. While this approach can be effective in helping children manage their symptoms, it does not address the underlying issues that may be causing the mental health problem.


We all know "Prevention is better than cure". So, it is essential to adopt a preventive approach to mental health rather than just managing the symptoms. It is high time to dig deeper and identify the root cause. Look at the current mental health state of children around us, pause and ask yourself some hard-hitting questions:


"What is the reason behind this sudden surge in mental health problems? "


"Are things actually different now than they were in our own childhoods? "


"Were these issues less prevalent in the past, and if so, what did our parents do differently?"


But most importantly, we must ask ourselves, "What has changed in these last two decades that we see a consistent rise in all these problems around us? "


Mental health issues are often complex. Many factors can influence our child's mental health.

Therefore, addressing the root cause can help prevent mental health problems from occurring or reoccurring. Answering these challenging questions will help us better understand the issues. It is time to address the underlying problems rather than just handle the symptoms.


In the upcoming series, we will explore in detail the various factors behind this change and the challenges our children encounter. We will discuss strategies and share tips to support our children. Let us work together to create a world where mental health is prioritised and children can thrive and reach their full potential.


Break the silence around children's mental health and start the conversation today!


References:


  1. G, Gururaj & Varghese, Mathew & Benegal, Vivek & Rao, Girish & Pathak, Komal & Singh, Lokesh & Mehta, Ritambhara & D, Ram & Shibukumar, Tm & Kokane, Arun & RK, Lenin & BS, Chavan & P, Sharma & C, Ramasubramanian & Dalal, Pronob & Saha, Pranesh & SP, Deuri & Giri, Anjan & AB, Kavishvar & Misra, Radhieka. (2016). National Mental Health Survey -2015-16 Summary ((PDF) National Mental Health Survey -2015-16 Summary (researchgate.net)). & National Mental Health Survey of India 2015–2016 (nih.gov) (National Mental Health Survey, 2015-16 - Mental Health Systems_0.pdf (mohfw.gov.in))

  2. Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017 [PAS] - NHS Digital (https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-england/2017/2017)

  3. Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. 2017-2018 National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH) data query. Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) and retrieved [11/12/2018] from [www.childhealthdata.org].

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