Questions to ask your child if you suspect mental illness

Nearly 10 percent of hospitalized children are diagnosed with a mental illness, while 1 in 5 children actually have a mental illness.  According to research completed by the American Psychological Association, young children are less likely to get mental health treatment as compared to grownups. As part of Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we’re sharing tools parents can use should they suspect their child might be experiencing emotional or mental distress.

Kelley Kardys, BSN, RN-BC, youth services program manager, Parkview Behavioral Health, says that few parents are knowledgeable or aware of symptoms which may help them spot mental illness in their child.

Gladys Beale, MD, board-certified child/adolescent psychiatrist, Parkview Behavioral Health, cautions parents to look for these symptoms as possible red flags that might alert them to seek mental health advice:

  • Major change in behavior
  • A sudden drop in grades
  • A change in social circle
  • Increased moodiness
  • Changes in sleeping habits and/or persistent nightmares
  • Excessive fear, worry and crying
  • Prolonged tantrums  (over 10 – 15 minutes)

If you are concerned your child might have a mental illness, Dr. Beale suggests starting a conversation by asking the child the following questions:

  • Do you feel comfortable talking with me?
  • Are you happy?
  • Are you worried?
  • Do you feel sad?
  • Who are your friends?

Any negative answers warrant further investigation.

 “Many children face emotional struggles,” Kelley said. “Some are from normal development phases, but for some children these may indicate psychiatric illness.” She emphasizes the gravity of the parents’ role in addressing the condition. “Once you seek help for your child, it is very important that you’re involved in the evaluation and treatment of your child. Your participation is vital to the success of his or her journey to mental well-being.”

For more information, contact the Parkview Behavioral Health Access Center at (260) 373-7602 or 1-800-284-8439. 

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