HCA Virginia - April 15, 2019

We tell each other that it takes a village. We pitch in for carpools. We commiserate over diaper rash and temper tantrums and homework battles. Do we have the facts we need to be just as supportive for parents of children with mental health issues?

You might be tempted to say that you don't know a child with mental health challenges, but it’s estimated that one in five children has a diagnosable mental health disorder that significantly interferes with daily life. Read on to separate the myths from the facts.

Myth: Mental health problems aren't real in children — they are just part of growing up.

Fact: Researchers believe as much as 70 percent of adult mental illness begins during childhood including depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorders. Those who receive help early improve significantly and can better care for their own mental health as adults.

Myth: A child with a mental health issue is damaged for life.

Fact: Mental health issues and even psychiatric disorders do not indicate a child's potential or their chances to be happy and fulfilled. The sooner a child's struggles are recognized and treated, the better the chance of managing or overcoming symptoms, and developing into a healthy adult. Treatment works.

Myth: Mental health problems are the result of bad parenting.

Fact: Many conditions have biological roots, including anxiety, depression, autism and learning disorders, and are not the result of anything a parent did or failed to do. A child's home environment can contribute to their challenges, but so can trauma and other life events.

Myth: Mental health problems result from personal weakness.

Fact: Psychiatric disorders are an illness, like cancer or diabetes, and not a personality type. Children and teens cannot overcome these challenges on their own, or manage symptoms on their own, but they can recover with an effective diagnosis and treatment plan.

Myth: Therapy for kids is a waste of time.

Fact: Therapy is about gaining new coping skills and learning different strategies for handling problems. Research has shown that there's a window of opportunity, during the first few years when symptoms appear, when interventions are most successful. Often treatment programs use cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that cause children and teens the most problems.

Be an informed advocate for childhood mental health care and screenings for children during their developmental years. Look for additional information and resources from Dominion Hospital the areas behavioral health specialist in identifying and treating children's psychiatric issues.