When most of us think about folks going to therapy for mental health, we think about adults — people struggling with substance abuse, domestic violence survivors, folks going through a divorce, and those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one, for example.
Unfortunately, society tends not to recognize the importance of the youth as a group that needs mental therapy.
Just because this younger segment of the population might not have mortgage payments and bank accounts to worry about doesn’t mean they’re immune from mental health problems. A recent study found that 27 percent felt anxious in the past week. 15 percent felt depressed.
Believe it, or not More than half of high-risk teens are at risk don’t have access to the therapy they need to ensure their mental, emotional, and physical well-being. In the next section, we’ll examine why that is.
Why Children’s Mental Health Is Often Neglected
One of the main reasons kids are an underserved population for mental health services is because society hasn’t necessarily prioritized the importance of mental health counseling for young people as much as it should.
This is an example. According to American School Counselor Association, each school should have one counselor per 250 students to ensure they’re getting the mental health support they need to live their best lives. However, on average, there is only one counselor per 455 students in a school district.
Right off the bat, we’re collectively setting the tone that says something like this: While student mental health services are important, they’re not incredibly important to the point we need to make them a top priority.
Perhaps this is because many adults think that kids who are suffering through issues are “Simply going through a stage” — and that their problems aren’t anywhere as serious as an adult’s problems might be. This couldn’t be further from the truth — particularly for those who grow up in less-than-ideal circumstances (e.g., in poverty or with an abusive parent).
The COVID-19 pandemic
Given that children can struggle with mental illness even in the best times, it is not surprising that these difficulties only get worse after the pandemic.
For younger generations, everything was completely different. Their routines were changed overnight. They couldn’t go to school, they couldn’t see their friends, and they couldn’t leave their houses.
Not all children are able to seamlessly adjust to the new norm. In fact, many youngsters reported Zoom class is too difficult for you to handle and being separated from other students. The virus was also feared by children. It’s not surprising that the prevalence of Anxiety and depression was even higher than normal among this group of kids when COVID-19 set in.
The good news is that by giving children’s mental health the respect it deserves and taking a proactive stance with treatment, it’s possible to help kids navigate through their issues and end up in a much healthier state of mind because of it.
How Therapy Can Improve Children’s Mental Health
When parents prioritize their kids’ mental health and give them the support they need to get past the issues they’re facing, Great things happen.
When kids are in a solid place, they’re able to think clearly, learn new things, and improve their social skills. At the same, Parents’ mental health improves, too, since they benefit from a stronger relationship and can find joy in seeing their kids thrive.
No matter what kind of issues your child is having, the right therapist will be able to help. For example, if you and your child aren’t getting along, you may benefit from Parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT), which is designed to help kids and parents overcome concerns related to things like ADHD, anxiety disorder, autism, oppositional defiant disorder, and selective mutism, among other conditions.
Essentially, both parties join forces in PCIT to work through issues together, and these learnings can help guide the relationship forward over the next several years. The therapy sessions are over after about three to six month. Parents and kids then build on their relationship.
Similarly, if a child is working through physical or emotional trauma they’ve experienced, parents might want to look into whether Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) can help them overcome the obstacles they’re facing.
TF-CBT is a cognitive behavior treatment that helps children to cope with trauma and stressful situations. They’ll also grow more in tune with their emotions and more able to express their feelings in productive ways.
By now, you have a better idea about how therapy can help improve children’s mental health. But what if you’re not a therapist — is there anything else you can do?
How parents, teachers, and caregivers can help their children with depression
Parents, teachers, and caregivers may not be able or able to provide professional mental health services for their children, but they can help their anxious children work through their problems. Here are some ways they might do that.
Maintain an open dialogue
First things first: If you’re not talking to the children in your life on a regular basis, how can you possibly expect to know what they’re dealing with and what’s going through their minds?
One of the easiest ways to help kids deal with mental health problems is by maintaining an open dialogue with them to understand the issues they’re working through. Parents were in a unique situation when the pandemic hit schools. Talk to their children about the virus and what the experts had to say about it. By being open and honest, parents can help assuage some of their children’s concerns — particularly compared to folks who didn’t have much to say to their kids about the issue.
Bottom line: By engaging in conversation with your kids every day and knowing more about the issues they’re facing, you can begin to have healthy dialogues that can help kids overcome the challenges they face.
Recognize warning signs
It’s one thing for a child to have a bad day. It’s quite another to have several bad days in a row, with no signs of anything improving anytime soon.
While parents, teachers, and caregivers aren’t able to provide professional mental health services, they can become familiar with the warning signs that may indicate they are suffering from issues like depression or anxiety. Here are some indicators to look out for:
- Insatiable appetite
- Motivation low
- Retirement from activities
- Worsening school performance
- Low self-esteem
Seek help when it’s needed
Once you’re familiar with the warning signs to look out for, you’ll know when it’s time to enlist the services of a mental health counselor to help your child or student live a happier, more fulfilling life.
Are you ready to find the right therapist for your child? Start looking for a therapist that specializes in Psychology for children today!
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