6 common child mental illnesses
Does your child have a mental health condition? Take a look at these symptoms.
I grew up in a community which was ill-equipped to deal with issues of children’s mental health. Young people who displayed mental disorder symptoms were misunderstood and usually whipped or ridiculed by their teachers and parents. Any abnormal behaviour from a child was seen as acting out.

Most parents were ignorant of symptoms of mental illness and some may have been in denial fearing that if their child was classified as mentally challenged it could result in the young person being stigmatized.

The Journal of Child & Adolescent Mental Health states that 'In South Africa, HIV infection, substance use, and exposure to violence increase vulnerability to mental disorders.' The same reports that generally one in five children suffer from a mental disorder which in many instances may persist into adulthood.

The Mayo Clinic discusses six of these mental health conditions and symptoms that affect children.

1. Anxiety disorders: A child persistently experience anxiety that gets into the way of daily life.

2. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): A child suffering from ADHD is hyperactive, finds it difficult to be attentive and may have compulsive behaviour.

3. Autism: This mental health condition affects the ability of a child to communicate with others.

4. Eating disorders: Children can also suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder.

5. Mood disorders: These include depression and bipolar disorder.

6. Schizophrenia: When a child loses touch with reality.

Symptoms that may indicate a child has a mental disorder may include the following:
  • Mood changes
  • Intense feelings such as overwhelming fear
  • Behavior changes which includes violence and threats of violence, use of weapon and getting into fights
  • Difficulty concentrating which may result in poor school results
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Physical harm. This includes suicidal thoughts and attempts to self-harm or commit suicide
  • Substance abuse to try to cope with feelings
If you suspect your child as a mental illness

If a parent suspects that a child a mental illness The Mayo Clinic suggests consulting your child’s doctor and describing behaviour that concerns you. It is also advisable to ask other people who are in touch with the child such as teachers, close family members, caregivers and acquaintances to ask if they have seen change in behaviour.

Treating the child fairly

Out of fear of prejudice and sometimes embarrassment I’ve met parents who try to ‘hide’ a mentally challenged child from the world. Such parents may need to increase their knowledge of the condition that is affecting their child so they will be better equipped to deal with the illness. Instead of worrying about what other people think, parents of children with mental conditions should focus on giving their child as normal a childhood as possible, with the help of medical professionals, train the child to integrate into the community. Like every normal child these special needs children also need lots of love.

Does your child have a mental illness?
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