Did you know that around 1.2 million Canadian children and youths have a mental health disorder? Unfortunately, less than 20 percent get the appropriate treatment.
If you're a parent, understanding youth mental health is imperative to help you keep your child healthy. If you want to learn more about types of mental disorders and mental disorder treatments to help your child, keep reading.
What Is a Mental Disorder?
Mental disorders or mental illnesses are conditions that impact how you think, feel, behave, and your mood. While some are short-term and might come and go, others are long-term and affect you on a daily basis.
A mental health disorder can often impact your ability to function and relate to other people. Mental disorders will often impact your relationships, work, school, and more.
Mental Health Impacts of Covid-19 on Youth
The pandemic has impacted all of us. For every age group, the risk of mental health disorders has increased during the lockdown.
However, teens and young adults in Canada have the highest risk of experiencing poor mental health in comparison to other age groups. This was the case during the 1918-1919 pandemic as well.
In fact, mental health challenges brought on by that pandemic lasted for at least six years after it ended.
Let's take a look at how the Covid-19 pandemic might be affecting the youth in Canada.
Isolation and Loneliness
With schools closing down and shutdowns, youth were cut off from their friends. Previous opportunities to engage with their peers were removed.
Organized sports and clubs were not meeting, and the youth of Canada lost their ability to socialize in ways that are important to their development.
One of the many positive things about school is that it provides structure. That structure is good for children.
In addition, children in abusive home environments had a place where they were safe for a few hours a day. When schools closed, it took away the structure and the protective factor that many children not only need but rely on.
Even now, many schools have switched to hybrid programs, and in some instances, parents can enroll their children in online-only classes.
Access to Healthcare
Access to healthcare during the pandemic has been limited. This limited access includes mental health services that are important to the well-being of children with a mental health diagnosis.
Along with the pandemic, there has been a lot of fear and stress. Children are left to wonder:
- "Will I get COVID?"
- "Will someone I love get COVID?"
- "Will someone I love die from COVID?"
These questions are stressful for anyone; however, for youth who are still learning how to manage stress and fear, struggling with these questions can be even more difficult.
For many teens, their teen years are a great time to get work opportunities. As they begin to learn various skills, they can transition this to full-time employment as adults.
Some teens were laid off at their jobs, or they were stopped from entering the workplace because of COVID.
Explaining Covid to Kids
How do you explain COVID to kids and help them get through the pandemic with all of these concerns? Part of explaining COVID to kids is deciding what's developmentally appropriate.
For example, a teenager will understand more than a five-year-old. However, both might have a lot of questions and concerns.
One great way to start is by asking them what they already know. They've likely heard people talking; talking to them about what they've heard and whether that is true or not can help calm some of their fears.
Remember, to keep your answers age-appropriate. Another important step is to ask them how they're feeling.
This question gives them the opportunity to express their fears and concerns. You can then help them learn to process those feelings.
Who Is Affected by Mental Disorders?
Mental disorders will indirectly impact all Canadians at some point in their life. Whether you have a friend or relative with a mental disorder, it will impact you in some way.
By the time people reach the age of 40, around 50 percent of the population will have had or have a mental disorder. Around one in five Canadians personally experience concerns with their mental health in a year.
For the purpose of this, we will define children as kids between the ages of three and 12. One of the challenges when it comes to mental health and children is diagnosis.
You have to have the ability to separate normal childhood behaviours from abnormal childhood behaviours. Parents may often find themselves asking if it's "just a stage," or if there is more they need to be concerned about.
With children at this age, a combination of hereditary and environmental factors can be at play when it comes to mental health. One important way you can tell the difference between it being just a stage or more is by the length of time.
If the behaviour persists for a few weeks, you should consider getting your child evaluated. Another way to tell is if it is impacting their ability to function at home, school, or with friends.
However, if your child's behaviour makes them a danger to themselves or others, get help immediately.
Signs Your Child Needs to be Evaluated
There are some signs you can watch for in younger children that indicate they might benefit from getting evaluated by a mental health professional. Some of these signs include:
- Frequent tantrums
- Intensely irritable most of the time
- Talks about fears and worries often
- Frequent stomach aches or headaches with no medical cause
- In constant motion and can't sit still (except when watching videos or playing games)
- Frequent nightmares
- Sleep too much or too little
- Difficulty making friends
- Not interested in playing with other children
- Academic struggles
- Recent decline in grades
- Check things multiple times or repeat actions because of fear of something bad happening
As we consider teenagers, we are looking at age 13 to 19. Teenagers come with their own concerns and struggles.
You also need to consider the unique challenges that come with teenagers. At this age they are changing quickly and starting to build their identity.
Like younger children, you'll want to watch and see how potential symptoms are impacting them. If it's impacting their ability to be successful at home, school, or with friends, get them an evaluation.
Signs Your Teenager Needs an Evaluation
The signs that your teen might need an evaluation are a little different than what you see in a younger child. Some of the signs can include:
- Low energy
- Lost interest in things they previously enjoyed
- Sleep problems
- Avoid social activities with friends or family
- Exercise or diet excessively
- Fear of gaining weight
- Self-harming behaviours
- Smoking, using drugs, or drinking
- Risky or destructive behaviour
- Thoughts of suicide
If you have concerns for your teen, it doesn't hurt to get them evaluated. A mental health professional can help you sort through what's normal and what's not.
Most Commonly Diagnosed Mental Disorders in Youth
There are a few commonly diagnosed mental health disorders that you will find in children. We have listed some below.
Around five to nine percent of Canadian children have ADHD. Symptoms for ADHD fall into two categories, inattentiveness or hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
Some signs of inattentiveness include:
- A short attention span
- Easily distracted
- Constantly changing activity or task
- Difficulty organizing tasks
- Unable to carry out instructions or listen
- Loses things
Hyperactivity and Impulsiveness
Some signs of hyperactivity and impulsiveness include:
- Unable to sit still
- Excessive talking
- Constantly fidgeting
- Unable to concentrate on tasks
- Unable to wait for their turn
- Impulsive (acting without thinking)
- No or little sense of danger
Around three percent of children in Canada experience an anxiety disorder. There are some signs you can be on the lookout for that could indicate your child is struggling with anxiety.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Not sleeping
- Waking up at night because of bad dreams
- Not eating well
- Out of control during an outburst
- Quickly angered
- Constant worry
- Negative thoughts
- Crying often
- Complaining of not feeling well with no physical cause
Around two percent of children in Canada have depression. However, that number rises to four to eight percent in adolescence.
In childhood, depression affects around the same number of girls as boys. However, once adolescence hits, around twice as many girls are affected by depression.
Loss of In-Person School and the Effects
We spoke above about how the loss of in-person school has impacted children and their mental health. However, studies like this, also have taken a closer look.
In addition, the amount of screen time children were engaging in, increased during the pandemic. The loss of in-person school not only took away structure, but for many children, it took away the ability to engage with their peers.
This was seen even more in families with a lower socioeconomic status.
Mental Disorder Treatment for Youth
Are you ready to look into treatment for your child? There are a few paths you can take when it comes to improving youth mental health.
You can work with a psychologist or social worker. With these professionals, you can build a mental health strategy to learn how to respond to your child and to help your child learn how to cope with the emotions they are feeling.
Even if you are visiting a counselor on a regular basis for your child, it's important that you take an active role. You can help your child take the tools they learn in therapy into the real world.
If your child needs medication, you might need to find a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist can evaluate, provide treatment, and prescribe medication if necessary.
If you have concerns about medication, make sure to have those conversations with your child's psychiatrist. They can help answer your questions.
Love and Respect
More than anything, your child needs your love and respect. There is a lot of stigma around mental health disorders, and your child needs a safe place.
Create a home where you can openly communicate with your child. Give them the freedom to be able to express how they are feeling and support them through what they are going through.
One way you can do this is by asking questions. Children often struggle to put words to their emotions. For younger children especially, you may need to help them find their voice.
Risks If Left Untreated
Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death in Canada among youth and young adults? Not getting your child the treatment they need can have a long-lasting impact.
Set your child up for success by getting them the treatment they need.
There are many mental health resources for youth available for you. This includes helplines.
This website can help you find resources for mental health. However, there are some helplines you will want to be aware of as well.
- Kids Help Phone-- 1-800-668-6868
- Good2Talk -- 1-866-925-5454
- Mental Health Helpline-- 1-866-531-2600
There are also other resources available that can help support you and your child. Some of these resources are listed here. However, if you're looking for a quick list, we have that too.
You can see the highlights below:
Seeking Help for Mental Disorders
There are many resources available for youth mental health. Get your child the help they need by reaching out to one of the resources listed above.
Insurdinary cares about you and your child's mental health. If you're ready to seek treatment for your child, make sure you have the coverage you need. We'll give you the information you need.
Request a quote for health insurance today.
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