Mental instability in children

One of the biggest tools we have to fight health conditions is the power of human connection. This week [3rd-9th] of February is Children’s Mental Awareness week worldwide.

What is mental health? It’s an expression we use every day, so it might surprise you that the term ‘mental health’ is frequently misunderstood. ‘Mental health’ is often used as a substitute for mental health conditions – such as depression, anxiety conditions, schizophrenia, and others. According to the World Health Organization, however, mental health is “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his.

Approximately 7,128 Kenyans commit suicide every year. This translates to 20+ people every day. The World Health Organization states that approximately 1.9 Million Kenyans are depressed. What if this number can be reduced drastically? Most depressed patients are at the risk of committing suicide and in our country Kenya, most people cannot afford counseling. Due to the rising pressures of life, most of them are young men and women. A majority in the society erroneously ascribe mental illness to curses, evil spirits, or witchcraft. Such persons are often ostracized, stereotyped, feared or shunned by the society.

Last year president Uhuru Kenyatta directed the ministry of health to establish a task force on the status of the mental health in Kenya. The report is yet to be out.  when it comes to mental health, we are still a conservative society which we are yet to accept the fact that we are a volatile lot. This deliberate refusal to open up or attend counselling sessions with mental health practitioners even when one knows they need help is a major hindrance to mental health in Kenya.

While psychologists have linked increased cases of suicide or mental health issues to tough economic times, the other side of the coin puts the society and the education system on the spot: Does our system of education equip learners with the requisite skills to face life head-on?

In terms of burden of the disease among adolescents, depression is the third leading cause while suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15—29-year olds.

So, what are some of the telltale signs of a child with mental issues? Basically, children do develop the same mental health conditions as adults, but their symptoms may be different. Symptoms may manifest in the form of:

•             Mood changes. Look for feelings of sadness or withdrawal that last at least two weeks or severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships at home or school.

•             Intense feelings. Be aware of feelings of overwhelming fear for no reason — sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing — or worries or fears intense enough to interfere with daily activities.

•             Behavior changes. These include drastic changes in behavior or personality, as well as dangerous or out-of-control behavior. Fighting frequently, using weapons and expressing a desire to badly hurt others.

•             Difficulty concentrating. Trouble focusing or sitting still, both of which might lead to poor performance in school.

•             Unexplained weight loss. A sudden loss of appetite, frequent vomiting or use of laxatives might indicate an eating disorder.

•             Physical symptoms. Compared with adults, children with a mental health condition might develop headaches and stomachaches rather than sadness or anxiety.

•             Physical harm. The injure themselves deliberately harming themselves either by cutting or burning themselves. They also develop suicidal thoughts.

•             Substance abuse. Some kids use drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their feelings.

Once as a parent or care giver finds out or suspects the above signs in your child, you should immediately seek medical attention from qualified psychologist. You can also help the child cope with his condition by doing the following:

1.            Seek ways to relax and have fun with your child. Praise his or her strengths and abilities. Explore new stress management techniques, which might help you understand how to calmly respond to stressful situations.

2.            Consider seeking family counseling or the help of support groups, too. It’s important for you and your loved ones to understand your child’s illness and his or her feelings, as well as what all of you can do to help your child.

3.            Inform your child’s teachers and the school counselor that your child has a mental health condition. If necessary, work with the school staff to develop an academic plan that meets your child’s needs.

4.            If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, seek advice. Don’t avoid getting help for your child out of shame or fear. With appropriate support, you can find out whether your child has a mental health condition and explore treatment options to help him or her thrive.

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