Children’s Mental Health And Why It Matters
Mental health matters, but often we can forget to check in on our own mental health especially when you have children. It’s important to maintain positive mental health for your own well-being and that of your children, but it’s also important to monitor your children’s mental health.
Sometimes adults can view children’s issues as being simple and easy to solve especially when compared to their own, but that’s not necessarily the case. As mental health awareness grows, it’s becoming more apparent that youth mental health matters just as much as adult mental health.
The Mayo Clinic defines mental health as “the overall wellness of how you think, regulate your feelings and behave.” And further describes mental illness, or mental health disorder as “patterns or changes in thinking, feeling or behaving that cause distress or disrupt a person's ability to function.”
They go on to define common mental health issues children can encounter and that children can experience similar illnesses as adults, but may display different symptoms so it’s important to understand the common signs and symptoms in children.
Physical and mental health are equally important to maintain and helping your child’s mental and physical well-being is a constant undertaking.
Importance of paying attention to children’s mental health
Mental health challenges among children and youth are somewhat common and the diagnoses of depression and anxiety are increasing every year. Between 2016 and 2019 about 10% of children, around 6 million, in the United States had been diagnosed with anxiety or ADHD.There are particular warning signs that children could display. Parents and guardians should be aware of the warning signs of children’s mental illness.
Unmanaged mental health conditions can affect children by negatively impacting their quality of life. Poor mental health can easily turn into poor physical health that affects their socialization, diet, or sleep schedule. Their school work can decline or they can be uncontrollably irritable.
If you’re worried about your child’s mental health, the best approach is to gather information from the people in their life. Talk to their teachers and caregivers and ask if they have noticed any changes in your child. Talking to a healthcare provider and relaying all of this information is the next step to figuring out how you can best help your child.
Causes of poor mental health in children
There isn’t a set list of causes of poor mental health in children, but there are countless triggers that can negatively affect children’s mental health. Changes in a child’s life or traumatic events could contribute to poor mental health.
Singular events like moving homes, changing schools, or the loss of a loved one could lead to stress and poor mental health. Ongoing issues like chronic illness, abuse, or bullying can have the same negative effect on mental health.
It’s impossible to control everything in your child’s life so it’s important to help them develop their own coping skills. They can turn to these coping skills to try to calm their stress before it gets out of hand. It's important to try to know about the big things so you can help when you need to or reach out to a medical professional.
Again, the best thing parents and guardians can do is to be aware of what’s going on in their children’s lives. Try to establish open communication with your child where they can tell you anything without fear of judgment or punishment.
Symptoms of mental illness in children that may be environmental
Along with emotional triggers that can negatively impact children’s mental health there are environmental triggers that can impact mental health as well. Establishing an overall healthy home and school environment for children, both emotionally and physically, is important for their overall mental health.
Identifying if there’s a problem at home or at school and then helping to solve that problem that could be causing mental health issues for your child is a difficult task. As discussed earlier, the symptoms of mental illness are typically the same, but the cause could be environmental.
Again, the best option is to see a medical professional, but there are environmental issues to look for if your child is displaying symptoms of mental illness. Environmental impacts like air pollution and mold can affect everyone’s mental health including children.
Environmental impacts on children’s mental health
Air pollution is a common environmental issue that can affect mental health and an important one to address when looking at environmental impacts on children’s mental health.
Increased air pollution causes mental health issues alongside physical health issues. Air pollution rates are increasing every year and go beyond just traffic-related air pollution.
Although traffic and vehicle exhaust contribute to air pollution, meaning living near a busy road can cause more problems than just noise pollution, there are other sources of pollution to look out for as well. Ozone gasses, noxious gasses like carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) can pollute your indoor air.Along with air pollution, there are other environmental and social factors that can negatively affect children’s mental health including their life and routine at both home and school.
How to protect children’s mental health from environmental challenges
Everyone wants to live in a clean and safe environment and create that environment for their children as well. There are steps you can take to ensure your child is growing up in a clean environment.
Air purifiers can help the entire family with environmental challenges including air pollution, allergens, and smoke. Air pollution is a growing concern and negatively affects everyone even if you live in a rural area. Cleaning your indoor air environment of pollution will help everyone’s mental and physical health.Allergy season is also getting longer every year and symptoms are becoming worse. It’s important to track the allergens and air quality forecast in your area and also clean your indoor air of any allergens that make it inside. Smoke and other toxins are also a concern if you live near a smoker, wildfires, or in an area with toxic air pollution.