Since 1949, May has been recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month or simply Mental Health Month. Founded by an organization called Mental Health America, the observance is a time for mental health professionals, educators and people, in general, to spread the news that mental health is a key component of overall health. It is also an opportunity to highlight the fact that getting help from a mental health services provider is no different than seeking treatment from your family doctor.
Each year, the observance has a theme or area of focus. In 2019, Mental Health America says it is “expanding upon last year’s theme of #4Mind4Body and taking it to the next level, as we explore the topics of animal companionship (including pets and support animals), spirituality, humor, work-life balance, and recreation and social connections as ways to boost mental health and general wellness.”
Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week
As part of Mental Health Month, the first week of May is a time for focusing on how mental illness affects children and their families. It is easy for adults to think of childhood as a time of carefree fun and overlook the fact that mental health issues can be present or develop at any age. In fact, the same mental health conditions that affect adults can impact children. This includes:
- Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders, such as binge-eating disorder, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa
- Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which affects a person’s ability to communicate with and interact with others
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which causes hyperactivity, impulsive actions and difficulty concentrating
- Schizophrenia, which causes people to experience psychosis or losing touch with reality
The symptoms of mental illness can be different in children than adults, so it is important for parents and other caregivers to be familiar with the signs of mental health conditions. It is also important for people to understand that while children do go through behavioral “phases” as they mature, concerning behaviors should not necessarily be attributed to these periods.
How to Spot Mental Health Issues in Children and Teens
The sooner a mental health condition is identified, the more successful mental health services can be in treating it. Here are some signs to look for:
- Mood changes that last for at least two weeks and interfere with relationships at school or at home
- Intense feelings of fear or of being overwhelmed by life, which may be accompanied by rapid breathing or heart rate
- Trouble concentrating or sitting still
- Physical symptoms like stomachaches or headaches, which are more commonly a sign of a mental health condition in children than adults
- Significant changes in behavior such as lashing out verbally or physically, or expressing a desire to hurt others
- Substance abuse, which may be a coping mechanism for a mental health disorder
- Unexplained weight loss, frequent vomiting or loss of appetite
- Self-harm such as cutting or burning of the skin
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should talk with your child’s doctor. If appropriate, you should also consider talking with their teachers or school counselor to better understand the scope of the behavior. With that information, you and your doctor or mental health services provider can decide what action, if any, should be taken.
Mental Health Conditions are Treatable!
During Mental Health Month in May and all year long, it is important for people suffering from mental health conditions and their loved ones to know that mental illness is treatable and that there is no shame in seeking assistance. In fact, asking for help is a sign of strength and a positive step forward that should be applauded.
If you have questions about the mental health services we provide at Community Reach Center, contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or call us at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County, including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.