Children's HealthPsychologyUnited Kingdom

Spotting Early Signs of Mental Health in Children

How can you tell if your child is struggling with their psychological health?

Children are facing extraordinary circumstances during the Coronavirus pandemic. The sudden changes are a lot to digest, with distance created from friends, school, social activities and daily norms. Meanwhile, teenagers on the borderline of higher education are facing the daunting reality of exam results based on predictions, that some experts have cautioned as being likely to penalise students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Mental health affects one in ten young persons in the UK, and it disproportionately affects children from low-income families. They are four times more likely to experience mental health problems than those from higher-income families.

Parents and guardians around the world are questioning how they can protect the psychological health of children during these times. Social distancing measures have resulted in families turning to a growing number of professional online mental health services, which enable parents to connect with a qualified physician from the comfort of their home.

Medical Travel Market got in touch with Dr Lucy Viney, a Clinical Psychologist at the Fitzrovia Psychology Clinic in London to find out about the early warning signs that parents can watch out for to tell if children are struggling with their psychological health.

“Knowing how to talk to your child about their mental health, or recognising the signs that they might be struggling, can be challenging. Symptoms of depression or anxiety in children can sometimes look like ‘typical’ behaviour, particularly in teenagers who can keep their feelings to themselves. It can help to think about what’s normal for your child and if you’ve noticed signs that they’ve been behaving differently recently.

Here are some key signs that might indicate your child is struggling with their psychological health:

  • They do not enjoy the things they usually do
  • They have become withdrawn, and spend less time engaging with friends and family
  • They are tearful, upset or angry more than normal
  • They have changes in sleeping or eating habits (this includes both an increase or a decrease in the amount they sleep or eat)
  • They seem nervous or ‘on edge’ much of the time

If you notice any of these signs, it is important to talk to your child and try to understand any concerns or difficult emotional experiences they may be having. If you become concerned that your child is experiencing persistent difficulties with their psychological health, it is essential to seek professional guidance on how best to support them, via your GP or another health professional.”

During these unprecedented times, it is equally as important for parents to look after their psychological wellbeing. If parents can showcase role model behaviours and adopt a positive outlook, it will have a positive influence on the minds and characters of children.

Rather than looking back at the disadvantages, perhaps children will come out of this period with an understanding of what it means to be resilient.

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