Understanding Mental Health and Developmental Conditions

Categories: Mental Health

Our society as a whole is becoming much more aware that health and wellbeing does not just pertain to the physical. We are becoming much more aware of the impact mental health plays in our lives. This is very true when it comes to children’s health and wellbeing also. As parents, we ensure our children are physically strong and well, however, it is as equally important that we monitor and help them maintain their mental health as well.

Did you know that an estimated 1 in every 7 Australian children, aged four to seventeen years, suffer from mental health or behavioural problems? Furthermore, approximately half of all serious mental health issues in adulthood begin before the age of fourteen.

While children can develop all of the same mental health conditions as adults, the signs may be slightly different. Often parents can mistake signs as normal childhood behaviour or just a “rough patch”. And, as children can have difficulty articulating what they are experiencing, symptoms may be overlooked. This means it is very important for parents to be aware of the mental health issues and developmental conditions common in children.

Child psychiatrist and parenting educator, Dr Kaylene Henderson, outlines the four most common mental health and developmental conditions as:

  • Anxiety disorders – e.g. generalised anxiety, separation anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Speech and Language Disorders.

TIP: You can hear more about what Dr Henderson has to say about these conditions here, as well as finding specific content about each condition under “Mental Health” and “Developmental Conditions” in the Parent TV topic list.

Other mental health conditions that commonly occur in children include eating disorders, mood disorders and schizophrenia.

Some signs that might indicate your child has a mental health problem or developmental condition include:

  • Speech and language developmental delays
  • Social and emotional developmental delays
  • Cognitive delays
  • Mood changes
  • Behavioural changes
  • Trouble getting on with peers
  • School refusal
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Unexplained physical symptoms such as headaches or stomach aches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Self-harm
  • Unexplained weight loss

Obviously, if your child exhibits any of these signs or you have any concerns about their mental health or development, it is important to seek the opinion of a health professional as soon as you can. Early detection and intervention for mental health issues and developmental conditions result in children getting the support they need to lead happy and healthy lives.

Learn more about mental health issues and developmental conditions in children here.