After many scientific studies and personal experiences shared, it has become clear that discussions on mental health are important for both a child’s well-being and a parent’s peace of mind. While the topic may be difficult to discuss, many experts strongly encourage teaching kids how to comfortably talk about mental health from a young age. These simple conversations could potentially be life-saving.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of children aged three to 17, 7.4% (4.5 million) have a diagnosed behaviour problem, 7.1% (4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety, and 3.2% (1.9 million) have diagnosed depression. Furthermore, some of these conditions overlap, and children have to deal with more than one at once—causing even more stress. Unfortunately, it has been found that depression and anxiety cases have increased over time, yet only eight in 10 children receive treatment for depression and only six in 10 receive treatment for anxiety.
If left untreated, these conditions could be detrimental to a child’s health. The first step to better mental health care, as outlined by experts, is to openly talk about it with our children. Since kids model their behaviour based on what they see their parents doing, it would be best if parents lead by example.Showing your children that it’s okay to acknowledge your feelings, talk about them, and address any issues that arise from them will lead them to follow suit. Having a parent who’s transparent about their mental health greatly increases a child’s confidence in talking about theirs.
With this start, stigma around mental health can begin to disappear. Accompanied by other methods like using a neutral tone, using emojis to describe specific emotions, and asking open-ended questions to avoid an “I’m fine” default answer, simply discussing your mental health with your children can help prevent a lot of stress. However, it’s still important to be aware of the warning signs to know when to seek professional help. Things like constant restlessness or agitation, lack of enthusiasm, and self-harm warrant a doctor’s help.
One of the most important things to do is to avoid shrugging-off seemingly minor problems. As adults, it may be difficult to comprehend that a sick pet hamster feels like the end of the world to a child. Instead of telling them it’s not a big deal, it would be better to acknowledge the feelings and help the kid understand their emotions.