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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : features November 20, 2014


4/28/2012 10:00:00 PM
Signs of mental health challenges can emerge early
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Children's Mental Health Awareness Day is May 9. If you are a parent who has a son struggling with autism and related repetitive behaviors, or a daughter fighting to focus in class despite severe attention deficit disorder, knowing that there is a recognition day for these challenges can be uplifting.

Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, according to the publication "Treatment of Children with Mental Illness" by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Scientists are discovering that changes in the body leading to mental illness may start much earlier, before any symptoms appear.

Through greater understanding of when and how fast specific areas of children's brains develop, we are learning more about the early stages of a wide range of mental illnesses that appear later in life. Helping young children and their parents manage difficulties early in life may prevent the development of disorders.

Most parents want to know what to do if they are concerned about mental, behavioral or emotional symptoms in their children. The NIMH publication gives the following direction:

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.

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