As summer ends and students are returning to school, it becomes increasingly difficult to ignore the large number of young people affected by mental illness:
- One out of five children living in the United States experience a mental health condition each year.
- Fifty percent of children ages eight to fifteen experiencing a mental health condition don’t receive treatment.
- Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age
“Studies shows that unfortunately drugs and alcohol abuse go hand on hand with mental illness, we are looking at approximately 62% of high school seniors that have tried alcohol and 16% of high school seniors who binge drinks, which equates to more than five drinks in a row. We also have a staggering 37% of high school seniors who used marihuana, and 33% of eight graders had tried alcohol,” says Psychotherapist, Lissette Perez.
Perez explains that the reasons are a combination of different things. A lot of it has to do with transition, since most people do not deal well with change. Now add instability in the home or in their surroundings which makes coping much more difficult.
Some children are dealing with self-steam issues or finding themselves being left alone most of the time, which also contributes to substance abuse. “Being isolated or not feeling that you fit in, could lead to depression or anxiety,” she adds.
That´s why it is important that classmates, teachers, and families understand the challenges and complexities of mental illness and do their share to help combat the negative stigma surrounding the disease. Parents need to be proactive and have the difficult discussion with their children, asking if he or she would like to talk with a professional, and ensuring them that there is nothing wrong with it. They must be involved in their child’s life and pay close attention to behavioral changes like; isolating themselves from others, or not engaging in certain activities whether is in school or the family.
“A pill is not always the answer, eating healthy, practicing a sport, being involved in different activities are crucial. Things of that kind of nature are very helpful for a teen who is transitioning and having difficulties.”
When searching for a therapist, you must ensure that they are a good fit for your child. You will need to make certain that your child feels safe and will be able to connect with the therapist before hiring them. Be sure to schedule an interview and see how comfortable you and your family feel with that
person. It is about being able to connect that will enable your child to communicate and get the desired results from each visit.
How Parents Can Support a Child with Mental Illness
Parents can help by giving the child guidance and understanding. Before a mental illness has been diagnose and a treatment plan proposed, frustration, guilt and shame may have built up in the child and the family. Special help may be required to help the family and the child deal with these feelings. Through therapy, the family and the child will be able to develop new skills, techniques, attitudes and ways of dealing with issues and relating to each other. In addition, parenting skills training may be beneficial to help parents to more supportive of their child with mental illness.