ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What Children Should Know About Mental Illness

Updated on August 4, 2018
Carola Finch profile image

Carola is a mental health advocate and a freelance writer who focuses on mental illness and cognitive conditions..

Source

When I was around twelve years old, I met the mother of a school friend of mine. The mother was one of the first (that I know of) people I met who was diagnosed with a serious mental illness. She had schizophrenia. The mom basically sat around the house will a strange smile or vacant expression on her face. Her hair was greasy or unkempt, and she did not seem to take care of her appearance. I had no idea what schizophrenia meant. I did feel compassion for the mother but was afraid of her strangeness. My friend felt ashamed of her mom’s condition and was angry with her father for allowing her to live in the house.

At that time many years ago, no one talked about mental illness. I never considered asking my parents about it because I thought that they did not know anything about it. Mental illness was a weird scary thing to be hidden and feared.

Nowadays, people are much more open about mental illness. Celebrities talk about struggles with conditions such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. New treatments and medications are enabling people with mental disorders to live in the community instead of being hidden in institutions. Children have more exposure to people with mental illness more than ever before.

Preparing to Talk to Kids About Mental Illness

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), it is challenging for parents to understand mental illness, let alone explain it to their children. There have been great advances in diagnosis and treatment, but there are is also many myths, misconceptions, stigma and fear associated with mental disorders. Many parents need to learn basic information about mental illness before discussing the topic with their children.

Source

Be aware of the children’s needs and concerns

Parents should know what their children need to know and their concerns. They should also know how much knowledge and experience their children have with mental illness.

Have a basic knowledge about mental health conditions

Expect questions such as:

  • What causes of mental illness
  • Who develops these disorders
  • When the condition shows symptoms such as strong feelings of anxiety, sadness, irritability, or sleep disturbances over a long period
  • What treatments or medications are available

Communication Tips for Discussions About Mental Illness

  • Communicate in a clear, straightforward way – keep it short
  • Listen and watch how children react to the info
  • Back up or slow down if the child seems upset or confused
  • Reassure them that they are OK if they have concerns about their safety or the safety of others

Topics that may need to be addressed:

  • Mental illness is similar to physical illness and should not be stigmatized or feared – it is nothing to be ashamed of
  • Mental disorders are a fact of life that many people experience at one point
  • Kids can become mentally ill, too, and half of mental conditions begin by the age of 14
  • These conditions should be taken seriously and not be dismissed as a phase or something people with mental conditions can just “get over” through positive thinking, sunshine, or prayer
  • People with mental disorders can recover with medication/and or treatment – the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome can be
  • If parents has a mental disorder, children need to be told that their condition is not the child’s fault
  • Most people with mental illness are not scary or dangerous
  • People with these conditions can lead normal lives

Source

Concluding Thoughts

As a child, I thought that mental illness was a mysterious thing to be feared and despised. When a school counsellor told my mother that I could benefit from intense treatment for severe depression, my mother went into full denial. Nothing was wrong with her kid! I felt intense shame and guilt about my condition. Fortunately, I had some a lot of support from peers, social workers, and mental health professionals to help me recover from this difficult time.

At that time, mentally ill people around me were stigmatized as being weak or evil. They were told that their condition was their fault because they were lacked character, were emotionally immature, or refused to “get over it.” Many people still believe in myths and misconceptions about mental illness.

While we have made strides over the last few years by becoming more open about this important topic, we still have a long way to go to reduce stigma and educate the public about mental health. One way to address these issues is through having open discussions and sharing information about these conditions. Some adults may resist this kind of openness, thinking that discussing mental health will encourage kids to develop suicidal thoughts or other mental disorders. They may fear that children will interpret their own emotional state as being a disorder. This way of thinking is changing, however. Some states in the U.S. are now mandating instruction about mental health in schools.

Parental instruction and communication on this topic can help children to feel comfortable and less fearful and mental conditions. It can also help parents and children to recognize symptoms and get treatment early, if needed. In the end, we all benefit from having a better understanding of mental illness.

References:

Talking to Kids About Mental Illness, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
8 things I want my kids to know about mental health, Metro, Lucy Dimbylow
What Kids Should Learn About Mental Health, Medium
5 Tips for Talking to Kids About Mental Illness, The Mighty, David Susman

Comments

Submit a Comment
  • denise.w.anderson profile image

    Denise W Anderson 

    22 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

    Times have changed considerably since we were young. It used to be that people with mental illness were labeled as crazy or insane. With the current medications and therapies that are available, people with mental illness can lead normal lives. The more we understand about these conditions and how they function, the more comfortable we are talking about it with others.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)