I was recently in a meeting where the topic of Children’s Mental Health was being discussed; what I thought was really interesting was that most people don’t associate young children with being at risk of developing a mental health disorder. However, new research shows that there are strong links between early childhood and mental health in teens and adults. Knowing that an incredible amount of brain development takes place during the years of 0 to 3 years, this is not very surprising. In fact according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, it is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder. And unfortunately only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receives them.
But there is an upside to this story, awareness about Children’s Mental Health is continually increasing which is very important because early diagnosis, intervention, and support for mental health disorders can make a huge difference in the life of a child. The Canadian Mental Health Association - Edmonton Region (CMHA-ER), which is a United Way Member Agency, provides a variety of services that support children’s mental health. Through the use of play and healthy and consistent role modeling, children and youth are coached in developing healthy social interaction skills. The CMHA-ER also supports community care, provides recovery for people living with mental illness, educates people about mental health, and advocates for better access to mental health services in the Edmonton area.
So if you are a parent of a young child or a parent-to-be like me, make sure to be aware of the signs of a mental health disorder and get help. Family awareness and early identification are often the first steps to effective treatment for children and youth with mental health disorders. As noted by Children’s Mental Health Ontario, “It's easy to recognize when a child has a fever. How to respond is well documented, and medical help is readily available if the fever spikes. But a child's mental health is different. It can be difficult to distinguish between 'normal' problems that all children and adolescents experience from time to time, and behaviour that may be indicative of a mental heath disorder.”
For more information on signs of a Mental Health Disorder visit: