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January 31, 2018 by Speakers' Spotlight

Bell Let’s Talk Day: Three Mental Health Red Flags to Watch for in Kids

This Bell Let’s Talk Day (our speakers Kevin Breel, Jessica Holmes, and Séan McCann are all ambassadors, and CTV host Marci Ien is spearheading a Bell Let’s Talk special)—an annual effort to open up about mental illness that raises millions each year for mental health—we wanted to share segments of a story Alyson Schafer recently wrote for Huffpost on recognizing signs of mental illness in kids:

With rising rates of anxiety, depression, ADHD and other mental illnesses, parents are left wondering if their squirming toddler is just restless, or showing signs of ADHD. Is their preschooler’s fear of the dark a sign of an underlying anxiety disorder, or is this just drama created to help land a place in mom and dad’s bed? And what about teen behaviour? They can all seem somewhat “abnormal” to parents as some point, can’t they?

Let me just say that I am thrilled that society is talking about mental health, being more proactive about eliminating the stigma, and working to make more resources available to the public. This is progress!

Heightened awareness and diagnoses aside, here are the important red flags you should watch for:

Your Kid Can’t Manage The Demands Of Daily Life:

When our children are struggling to learn in the classroom, or can’t interact appropriately with peers and authority figures, something is amiss. All people can feel sad or anxious at times, or, on the other hand, struggle in school, and this isn’t a sign of any deficiency.

But, if we are so sad or so anxious we can’t manage our daily tasks, we have moved down the mental health continuum into the “interference zone.”

Changes In Baseline Behaviours:

Other flags to watch for are changes in behaviours from how you normally experience your child. For example, there are lots of kids who don’t eat very much, but, if your once healthy eater is pushing food around their plate instead of devouring supper, something might be up.

New Coping Behaviours:

When we struggle emotionally we seek to avoid the suffering. This could be as simple as twirling hair for comfort or chewing nails. But, it could also be in the form of school avoidance, excessive gaming, reaching for alcohol or pot to numb suffering, or cutting to ease feelings of disassociation.

Read the full story here.