Children’s Mental Health Awareness: Eradicating Social Stigma and Providing Early Intervention

Every conscientious parent is concerned about ensuring that they provide their children with the best of resources and care that they can afford. However, when it comes to mental health issues, most parents are unable to identify and cater to their child’s needs mostly because, despite social awareness programs, health concerns of such a nature are still stigmatized.

Mental health specialists have established that if learning disabilities and/or social, emotional and behavioral problems are diagnosed at an early age, it is better for the child’s own future, as well as for the society at large. Children who suffer from such problems are likely to fall into depression, drop out from school, be inclined towards substance abuse or become juvenile delinquents. If they are not given assistance and/or medical treatment at a young age this can result in illiteracy, violence, family breakdowns and unemployment in the future.

The first step towards providing better assistance and care to all mental health patients (irrespective of age) is to eradicate the stigma of discussing such concerns. It should be advertised through every possible platform that individuals with any condition that affects their mind are just as intelligent as any other individual. In fact in some cases, children and adults with learning disabilities may actually be much more intelligent and creative than the average person.

Furthermore, it should become common knowledge that a mental disability is nothing worse than a physical disability and that people with such an ailment are by no means unfit for society. This holds true particularly, if they are given timely care, medication and counseling/therapy.

Reducing the stigma will make it easier for parents of such children to talk about their concerns if they feel their child may have a mental illness. In addition if a parent is approached by a secondary caregiver (e.g. teacher, baby sitter, day care centre supervisor etc) who may have reasons to believe that the child is not developing normally, it will be easier for the parent(s) to accept the harsh reality as well as openly talk about their concerns.

Early intervention is a way to reach out to special children by providing counseling to parents at an individual level, as well as addressing the community at large, through social marketing efforts as well as school based programs. It involves family therapy, parent counseling and parent-child interventions. For situations where it is established that a child is indeed suffering from an ailment of the mind, in-home counseling support is also an option.

Special measures should be taken in situations where a child has gone through a traumatic experience, (such as abuse or bullying) or has witnessed frequent domestic violence or an incident of terrorism. Children from broken families need to be given special attention lest they develop anxiety related disorders. For this purpose various organizations have set up help lines, so as people may easily have access to advice from qualified mental health specialists. Home visiting is another preventive measure which is slowly gaining popularity, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States.

It is important that such early intervention programs become a global phenomenon because every child deserves to be given proper medical attention and therapy for mental complaints and illnesses.

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