Children's Mental Health
All children have some kind of upset, anger, and excitement in their lives. However, a child may have a mental health condition that needs medical attention if bad feelings and behaviours:
- are severe
- cause problems in the child’s life
- happen too often
- last a long time
- seem unusual
There are a number of mental health problems that can affect children, including:
- Anxiety disorders
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Eating disorders
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Children’s mental health conditions are treatable, but early diagnosis and treatment is important. If mental health conditions are not treated early, they may lead to more troubling conditions later in life.
Mental Health Conditions
Some anxiety is normal if it happens because of stressful events like the first day of school or a test. Children with anxiety disorders may feel worried about things that should not cause worry and they may have problems getting any enjoyment from activities or hobbies. Anxiety disorders lead to anxiety, fear, or panic and can cause problems with a child’s relationships, communication skills, interests and behaviour. Anxiety disorders at a young age can lead to health and mental health problems later in life.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
All children get distracted, have trouble concentrating, or get hyper sometimes. However, children with ADD or ADHD have trouble most of the time. These children have trouble concentrating every day, become bored easily, cannot control their behaviour, and often cannot sit still for short periods of time. ADD and ADHD can affect child’s social life and can cause problems in their families if their behaviour becomes aggressive. Children with ADD or ADHD almost always have trouble in school.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
Autism Spectrum Disorder includes a number of similar developmental disabilities that cause problems with a child’s brain development and affect their social relationships, communication skills, interests and behaviour. Children with ASD may have trouble with understanding and using language, they may not make eye contact with others, they may repeat activities, or they might have one thing that really interests them when they are bored with everything else.
While bipolar disorder in adults causes mood swings from excitement to depression, children with bipolar disorder often experience depression that lasts a long time. They may experience dramatic mood swings as they get older. Some children may feel depressed at times, while other times they may feel that they are very important and are able to do anything.
Depression causes sadness that can last a long time. Depressed children may lose interest in activities they used to enjoy and may stop playing with friends. They may also cry easily or complain about pain like headaches or stomach aches.
Most children will eat enough to keep themselves healthy if they are given healthy food. Early teens may become aware of their bodies and may change their eating habits to make sure their bodies look the way they think they should look.
Eating disorders cause problems with the way a child eats. Children with an eating disorder may eat too much or they may eat too little because they are worried about their weight. Eating disorders can cause weight problems and can affect a child’s health if they do not get enough vitamins.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is an anxiety disorder that causes upsetting thoughts or feelings, and repetitive actions. A person with OCD completes a set or series of repetitive actions to help calm the upsetting thoughts or feelings.
When a child has OCD, they may believe that something is wrong, dirty or dangerous and they will try to fix the problem even if there is no problem. For example, a child may believe their hands are dirty and feel the need to wash their hands, even if their hands are not dirty. If they cannot wash their hands, they feel anxiety and panic, and get angry.
Schizophrenia begins during the teenage years or early 20’s with depression and anxiety. Over time, the way a person thinks, feels, and behaves will change if they do not get treatment. In adults, schizophrenia causes hallucinations and false beliefs, as well as strange behaviour. People with schizophrenia may see or hear things that are not real or believe things that seem strange or wrong. If left untreated, schizophrenia will lead to more severe problems which will impact the person’s daily functioning, their family, relationships, and work.
The Department of Health offers community, regional, and out-of-territory mental health services to help diagnose and treat children with mental health conditions.
If you think your child or another child you know might have a mental health condition, talk to a nurse or doctor at your local health centre. You can also talk to your local social worker or wellness counsellor.
You can call the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line for more support:
(867) 979-3333 or toll free at (800) 265-3333.