Mental health and emotional well-being are tremendously important to pay attention to in children and young adults. Mental health problems affect about 1 in 10 children and young people. These problems include depression, anxiety and conduct disorders. These issues have a direct impact on the behavioral health of children. Alarmingly, about 70% of these children have not had appropriate interventions to help them. Here is why behavioral health in children is so important.
Children’s Mental Health
Mental health is just as important in children and young adults as physical health, but it is often not given enough attention. Good mental health allows children to develop the skills they need to cope with the difficult things they will encounter in life and to grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.
Most children grow up mentally healthy, but research suggests that more children and young adults have problems with their mental health today than 30 years ago. While some children are born with mental health issues, others experience mental health issues in response to what is happening in their lives. For instance, beginning in elementary school kids today feel extreme pressure to get high test scores on standardized tests. They are pressured to get high grades in order to get into college and then they are pressured to go to graduate school in order to get a good job. This stress can lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and other mental health problems.
There are additional factors that make some children more likely to experience mental and behavior health problems than other children. Some of these factors include having a long-term illness; having a parent who has had mental health problems, problems with alcohol or has been in trouble with the law; experiencing the death of a close friend or family member; having parents who separate or divorce; having been bullied or physically or sexually abused; living in poverty or being homeless; and having long-standing educational difficulties. Children who experience these things are not doomed to mental health problems, but they are risk factors that can indicate problems arising.
Children and young adults with mental health problems tend to have lower self-esteem, perform poorly in school, and make unhealthy lifestyle decisions. However, when properly treated, they can overcome many of these issues and live normal, healthy lives.
Things that can help keep children mentally well include eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise; being part of a family that gets along well most of the time; feeling loved, trusted, understood, valued and safe; being able to learn and having opportunities to succeed; feeling they have some control over their own life; having the strength to cope when something is wrong and the ability to solve problems. When children are lacking some of these skills, they can gain them through therapy and with a supportive school and home life.
Behavioral Health in Children
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines behavioral health as the connection between a person’s behaviors and the health and well-being of their mind and body. Mental health has a big effect on behavioral health in children. There are the mental health issues that directly affect behavioral health in children – Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Tourette Syndrome, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), and Conduct Disorder to name a few.
Every mental health issue that children experience has an affect on their behaviors in one way or another. Depression and anxiety, commonly experienced by children and young adults, also have a huge affect on behavioral health in children. The behaviors that children with depression or anxiety exhibit just may be quieter than those exhibited by children with behavior disorders like ADHD or ODD. In these cases children might be withdrawn or not engage much with peers. They also might act out by being disruptive, having tantrums, or through self-harm. Even extreme stress, which is a mental health issue, affects behavioral health in children. A stressed child can show behaviors from shutting down to acting out. Mental health affects every person differently.
The same interventions used to help keep children mentally well can also be applied a child’s behavioral health. Therapy is often appropriate, as is medication. However, other factors that can help with having behaviorally healthy children include being part of a family that models healthy behavior; feeling loved, trusted, understood, valued and safe; being able to learn and having opportunities to succeed; feeling they have some control over their own life; and having the strength to cope when something is wrong and the ability to solve problems.
The thing to remember is that both mental and behavioral health in children are important. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), together with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and other agencies, are working to learn more about strategies for integrating behavioral health with health care, child welfare, and education. They are taking these steps because the behavioral health of children affects families, schools, and communities. Integrating behavioral and mental health and wellness into all areas of a child’s community can help to insure that they have the support and knowledge to become mentally healthy adults.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article: Childhood Attachment Disorders Are Creating A Mental Health Crisis.