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  • Writer's pictureJohnson Behavioral Health Group

Caring for Young Minds: Recognizing and Supporting Children’s Mental Health

Children are often expected to be self-sufficient and mature, even though they’re still supposed to act like children.

Every year, we observe National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day to raise awareness about the importance of children’s mental health and the need for early intervention and support. While conversations around mental health have become more prevalent in recent years, identifying depression or other mental health issues in children can still be challenging for parents and caregivers as children may not always be able to express their feelings or may not understand what they are experiencing.

Impact of Parental Pressure on Children’s Mental Health

Parents or caregivers, in particular, may unintentionally contribute to this mental health pressure by expecting children to behave in ways that align with adult standards of behavior. For example, when a child is learning something new, such as tying their shoes or solving a math problem, adults may become impatient or frustrated if they don’t get the concept immediately. This can create stress and anxiety for the child, making it even more challenging for them to learn and succeed.

Similarly, when children exhibit behaviors or emotions that adults can’t understand or relate to, it can lead to feelings of frustration or dismissal. Children may be scolded for crying over seemingly minor issues or expressing their emotions in ways adults deem inappropriate or immature. This can leave children feeling invalidated and misunderstood, further exacerbating their emotional struggles.

Another big thing is the sudden changes in mood and energy levels that are a normal part of childhood development, yet adults can misunderstand or misinterpret. Children may be labeled as moody or difficult when they experience fluctuations in their emotions or energy levels without adults recognizing that these changes could be signs of underlying mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.

Impact of the School Environment on Children’s Mental Health

Moreover, the school environment can also play a big role in children's mental well-being in various ways, as it is where they spend a significant portion of their time and engage in social, academic, and emotional experiences apart from their home. Some ways the school environment can impact children's mental health are bullying and peer relationships, academic pressure, social dynamics and discrimination, teacher-student relationships, school policies, access to resources, and stigma surrounding mental health.

But regardless of the reasons, here are some common signs to look out for and steps you can take to support a child who may be struggling.

Recognizing the Warning Signs in Children’s Mental Wellness

1. Changes in their appetite: Whether eating more or eating less. The biggest way is to just figure out if they’re gaining weight or they’re losing weight.

2. Staying in their room: They may isolate themselves from friends and family and spend most of their time alone in their room.

3. Loss of interest in things that they used to find pleasure in: A child who is struggling with their mental health may isolate themselves from friends and family and spend most of their time alone in their room.

4. Decreasing energy and activity: They sleep all the time when they are usually active at once. A child who is usually active and energetic may become lethargic, sleep more than usual, and lack motivation to engage in activities they used to enjoy.

5. Moody and irritability: You see these mood changes with your child. They may become easily agitated or upset, have frequent mood swings, and exhibit signs of irritability or anger.

6. Declining grades: This is a common one as well. They may experience difficulties concentrating and keeping up with schoolwork, resulting in declining grades. A lot of times, teachers will say, “You need to get your child tested for ADHD,” when in actuality, it’s depression.

Taking Action to Support Children’s Mental Health

If you know a child who might be experiencing these symptoms, one or two symptoms might not mean they’re depressed. But it’s when they’re experiencing 5 or more that we become concerned as medical providers.

However, if you notice even some of these signs persisting over time, it’s essential to take action. Here’s what you can do to support a child who may be struggling with depression:

1. Open communication: Create a safe space for your child to express their feelings without judgment. Let them know you’re there to listen and support them.

2. Create a supportive environment: Foster a supportive and nurturing environment at home and in other areas of your child’s life. Encourage positive social interactions and address any sources of stress or conflict that may be contributing to their symptoms.

3. Encourage healthy habits: Help your child establish routines that promote physical and emotional well-being, such as regular exercise, nutritious meals, and adequate sleep.

4. Stay involved: Stay engaged in your child’s life and activities, even if they resist or withdraw. Let them know you’re there to support them every step of the way.

5. Reduce stressors: Identify and address any sources of stress in your child’s life, whether it’s academic pressure, social conflicts, or family issues.

6. Seek professional help: Reach out to a pediatrician or mental health professional who specializes in working with children. They can conduct a thorough assessment and recommend appropriate treatment options, including therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Recognizing and addressing psychological conditions such as depression, ADHD, or anxiety in children requires patience, understanding, and proactive intervention. By supporting a child who may be struggling, you can help them navigate their emotions, build resilience, and work towards a brighter and healthier future. Remember, early intervention is key, so don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you’re concerned about your child’s mental health.

Johnson Behavioral Health Group offers a range of telehealth services tailored to children’s unique needs, ensuring they receive the care and support they deserve. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you’re concerned about a child’s mental health—it’s never too early to intervene and make a positive difference in their lives. Together, we can support your child’s journey to better mental health and well-being.


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