Mental illness is a real and pressing issue in today’s society. What is less talked about, however, is the fact that mental illness does not discriminate. Mental illness can affect anyone, at any age, from any walk of life. This includes children. In 2022 alone, as many as 17.4% (or 1 in 6) of children aged 2–8 years have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Unfortunately, there are still many misconceptions surrounding mental illness in children. In this blog post, you’ll learn five of the most common myths about mental illnesses in children.
- Myth #1: “Children are too young to experience mental illness.”
- Myth #2: “Mental illnesses in children are just a phase.”
- Myth #3: “Children who experience mental illness are just attention-seeking.”
- Myth #4: “It’s normal for children to experience strong emotions; they’re just kids.”
- Myth #5: “There’s nothing we can do to help children with mental illness.”
Myth #1: “Children are too young to experience mental illness.”
Truth: Mental illness does not discriminate based on age. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 1 in 5 children aged 13–18 live with a mental health condition. That means 20% of teenagers now struggle with mental illness. Furthermore, coping with mental illness at any age can be difficult, but it can be especially tough for children. This is because they typically don’t have the same life experiences or coping mechanisms as adults do. Mental illness is not something that only affects adults; it can affect children, too.
Myth #2: “Mental illnesses in children are just a phase.”
Truth: Many people still believe that mental illnesses in children are simply a phase they will eventually grow out of. This could not be further from the truth. Mental illnesses are real and should be taken seriously, regardless of the age of the individual affected. Left untreated, mental illnesses can have long-lasting and detrimental effects on an individual’s health and well-being.
For one, mental illness can affect a child’s schooling. Children with mental illness are more likely to have lower grades, miss more school days, and be held back a grade. One study discovered that 50% of all mental illness that affect people in life starts by age 14, and 75% of all mental health disorders develop when a person reaches 24. This means that mental illness is not something children simply grow out of—it is a real and serious issue that needs to be addressed.
If you’ve noticed your children exhibiting any signs or symptoms of mental illness, it’s important to seek professional help. Some mental illnesses are manageable, but you’ll need experts to help you devise the proper plan and treatment for your child. Fortunately, you can work with child cognitive behavioral therapy and mental health professionals to ensure your child gets the necessary help and support.
Myth #3: “Children who experience mental illness are just attention-seeking.”
Truth: One of the most harmful myths about mental illness is that those who suffer from it are just looking for attention. This myth invalidates the very real experiences and suffering of those with mental illness. It also discourages many people from seeking help, as they fear that they will be seen as attention-seekers rather than people who are genuinely struggling.
One way to dispel this myth is to educate yourself and others about the realities of mental illness. Read books, volunteer at support groups, or talk to mental health professionals to learn more about mental illness and how it affects people. Only then can we start to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness and encourage more people to seek help. Mental illness is a real and serious issue, regardless of whether or not someone is seeking attention.
Myth #4: “It’s normal for children to experience strong emotions; they’re just kids.”
Truth: While it is true that children do experience strong emotions, it is important to differentiate between normal emotional fluctuations and signs of a more serious issue. Suppose your child is exhibiting signs of a mental health condition, such as persistent sadness, withdrawing from friends and activities they once enjoyed, or drastic changes in mood or behavior. If that’s the case, it is important to seek professional help. These could be signs of a more serious problem that requires treatment.
When you don’t know how to differentiate between normal childhood emotions and signs of a mental health condition, it can be helpful to consult with a professional. A mental health expert can assess your child and guide you on how to best support them.
Myth #5: “There’s nothing we can do to help children with mental illness.”
Truth: The final myth to address is the belief that there is nothing parents or caregivers can do to help a child suffering from a mental illness. This could not be further from the truth. You can do many things to help your child if they are struggling with a mental health condition.
Firstly, you can educate yourself and your child about their condition. This can help normalize their experience and make them feel less alone. Secondly, you can create a support system for your child by involving close family members and friends in their care. Finally, you should seek professional help if you feel your child would benefit from treatment by a qualified mental health professional.
Mental illness is a real and pressing issue affecting people of all ages across the globe. In this blog post, you learned about five common myths about mental illnesses in children to help spread awareness and understanding about this important topic. If you think your child might be struggling with their mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out for help! Many resources are available to you and your family to get started on the road to recovery today.