Your Child’s Mental Health

Understanding Your Child’s Mental Health

For generations, young people impacted by mental illness have experienced discrimination at school and often do not seek diagnosis or treatment for fear of being “found out.” Our mission is to educate the community to reduce the stigma of mental illness so we can walk alongside youth as they receive full acceptance and the high­-quality care they deserve.

Who is affected?

Fully 20 percent — 1 in 5 — of children ages 13-­18 currently have or previously had a serious mental illness. By comparison, 8.3 percent of children under age 18 have asthma and 0.2 percent have diabetes.

Although the onset of mental illness generally occurs early in childhood or adolescence, diagnosis is often delayed for years or even decades. Some of the most common mental illnesses impacting children include ADD, ADHD, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders, and schizophrenia.

The Difference Between Mental & Behavioral Health

It’s important to note that behavioral health is a term that covers the full range of mental and emotional well­-being – from the basics of how we cope with day­-to­-day challenges of life, to the treatment of mental illnesses, such as depression or personality disorder, as well as substance use disorder and other addictive behaviors.

Not Every Problem is Serious

Many everyday stresses can cause changes in your child’s behavior. For example, the birth of a sibling may cause a child to temporarily act much younger than he or she is. It is important to be able to tell the difference between typical behavior changes and those associated with more serious problems.

Warning Signs of Mental Illness

  • Problems across a variety of settings, such as at school, at home, or with peers
  • Changes in appetite or sleep
  • Social withdrawal, or fearful behavior toward things your child normally is not afraid of
  • Returning to behaviors more common in younger children, such as bed­wetting, for a long time
  • Signs of being upset, such as sadness or tearfulness
  • Signs of self­-destructive behavior, such as head­-banging, or a tendency to get hurt often
  • Repeated thoughts of death

How You Can Help Your Child

As a supportive parent, you can help your child manage difficulties early in life in order to prevent the development of disorders.

Some children get better with time, but other children need ongoing professional help. Talk to your child’s doctor or specialist about problems that are severe, continuous, and affect daily activities. Also, don’t delay seeking help. Treatment may produce better results if started early.

Tips for Parents

The following tips address common questions about diagnosis and treatment options for children with mental illnesses.

  • Talk to your child’s doctor or health care provider. Ask questions and learn everything you can about the behavior or symptoms that worry you.
  • If your child is in school, ask the teacher if your child has been showing worrisome changes in behavior. Share this with your child’s doctor or health care provider.
  • Keep in mind that every child is different. Even normal development, such as when children develop language, motor, and social skills, varies from child to child.
  • Ask if your child needs further evaluation by a specialist with experience in child behavioral problems. Specialists may include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and behavioral therapists. Educators may also help evaluate your child.
  • If you take your child to a specialist, ask, “Do you have experience treating the problems I see in my child?”
  • Don’t be afraid to interview more than one specialist to find the right fit.
  • Continue to learn everything you can about the problem or diagnosis. The more you learn, the better you can work with your child’s doctor and make decisions that feel right for you, your child, and your family.

Are you worried about your child?

If you’re worried about your child, have questions or need help, please call our free Community Referral Line at 918.585.1213 or 405.943.3700. You may also email us at info@mhaok.org. We are available Monday­-Friday, 8:30 am­-5 pm.

The more you learn about navigating the complex mental health system, the better you can work with your child’s doctor and make decisions that feel right for you, your child, and your family.

Get Your Adolescent a Free Mental Health Screening

If you are concerned about your adolescent’s mental health, our free TeenScreen service is a youth wellness screening program that identifies general health and mental health concerns in 6th­-12th grade youth.

Within our Tulsa and Oklahoma City offices, our TeenScreen staff offer by-appointment­-only screenings.

The screening is simple. Your adolescent will complete a computer­-based survey of mental health concerns on a laptop. If a screener identifies a mental health concern, including suicidal thoughts or behavior, the screener will contact you to work through a plan to connect your teen with the necessary support and treatment. Our screener will continue to provide support to your family until your teen engages in treatment, if you choose to seek counseling.

If you’re interested in getting your teen screened at our office in Tulsa or Oklahoma City, please fill out the interest form below to set up an appointment.

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