Children’s Mental Health: Who’s on Your Team?
By Alisha Parker-Cummins
“Teamwork makes the dream work,” and that is really true for childhood mental health. It’s about people working together to achieve more than they could individually and /or independently. And it’s going to take a team to address today’s prevalence of childhood mental health disorders. Only by using a team approach, with families, healthcare professionals, mental health providers, and educators – all on the same page, that we can promote mental health, change lives and improve outcomes during these formative years in our children’s lives.
In today’s society we have come a long way in recognizing the impact caused by childhood mental health conditions. From iconic celebrities sharing their own personal struggles with mental health disorders, to the rise in advocacy, mental health awareness is on the upswing. Nonetheless, far too many children and teens fail to get the help they need due to the ongoing stigma and barriers in accessing mental health treatment. Parents may be so worried about behavior changes or a drop in school grades they may not recognize the larger issue, such as why their child may be acting out or falling behind. They might not recognize it as a symptom of mental illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental disorders among children are serious changes in the way they typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, which cause distress and problems getting through the day. Some of the most commonly diagnosed disorders in children include ADHD, behavioral problems, anxiety, and depression.
According to Angela Essary, a Master’s level counselor and Adult Program Manager with Psycamore, LLC, once families recognize a possible mental health problem, treatment can come in many shapes and sizes. Children may begin by seeing a school counselor. If parents notice that regular in-depth counseling is helpful to their child, they can consider scheduling an appointment with a community mental health center. There they can see a therapist and a psychiatrist, or even both of them in private practices. Psycamore offers the next level of care – Partial Hospitalization Program and Intensive Outpatient Program, when children’s symptoms need more consistent, daily interventions with group and individual therapy. Kids with these types of inclusive treatments make quick improvements while parents get additional support in parenting groups.
According to Dr. Sudhakar Madakasira, MD, Medical Director of Psycamore, some mental disorders in children are inherited and biochemical in origin and need medications to control symptoms. Parents are required to view this with an open mind and review options with a psychiatrist.
Most critical things parents can do to promote mental health in their families are also some of the simplest. Emily Lehigh, LCSW, Child Program Manager, and Zach Thompson, MA, PLPC, Adolescent Program Manager at Psycamore, LLC, offered their qualified advice below.
1. Establish a regular schedule, so-called sleep/wake cycle. It helps in regulation of an important chemical in the brain serotonin which decreases stress hormones like cortisol and improves the ability to pay attention and manage moods.
2. Regulate screen time. Too much screen time creates symptoms that mimic depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
3. Set limits for children. Whether that is the amount of screen time or a set bedtime or general discipline. Kids need to know what parameters they have to operate within. It offers a sense of security. Psycamore uses the method 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children.
4. Incorporate activities that help everyone to be present in the moment. Activities like that include yoga – incredibly good for the brain, particularly the frontal lobe. Mindfulness practices are helpful in treating issues related to depression, anxiety, anger problems, and ADHD.
5. A healthy environment benefits the whole team. The health and wellbeing of the parent are critical. And by the way, if it’s a healthy behavior for the kid, it’s good for the parent too. It’s a win-win.
Mental health is no accident and without actively pursuing healthy behaviors children and adults alike are at risk for developing mental illness. Let’s fight the stigma and get our children, teens, and even ourselves the help we need and deserve. For more information reach out to Psycamore at 601-939-5993 or visit www.psycamore.com.
Alisha Parker-Cummins is the Regional Marketing Manager at Psycamore Psychiatric Programs.