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Minds Matter @ KPR:  Early warning signs of mental health issues
Research shows one in five children and youth experience mental health issues at some point.  Mental health issues can seriously impair a child’s ability to be successful at school and to have positive relationships.  But what are the signs that may indicate your child is experiencing a mental health issue?

Every child and teen is different, and each one goes through a variety of phases, ages and stages.  Early signs that could indicate they may be experiencing mental health concerns include:
  • social issues, such as extreme shyness around peers, difficulty speaking in groups, being a loner, or hitting or bullying other children
  • poor performance at school, particularly if they were doing well but then started getting poorer marks or test results not matching their abilities
  • recurring physical problems – such as stomach aches or headaches – with no medical explanation emotional difficulties such as panic attacks, extreme irritability, mood swings, severe worry and anxiety,
  • outbursts of anger or feelings of sadness
  • persistent nightmares or difficulty sleeping
  • difficulty paying attention
  • loss of energy and motivation
  • loss or dramatic increase in appetite
  • trying to injure oneself or others
  • withdrawing from things that used to bring enjoyment
  • chronic dishonesty, stealing, damaging others’ property or rebelling against authority
  • threatening to run away.
These behaviours could be signs of underlying mental health issues if they:
  • interfere with a child’s or teen’s day-to-day functioning and life
  • persist for long periods
  • are inappropriate for the child’s age.
If you are concerned about your child, it is always better to err on the side of caution.  Speak with your family doctor about referring your child or teen to a mental health professional.  Ask your child’s teacher, principal or vice-principal if they have noticed behavioural changes at school, and discuss ways in which the school might provide support as well.  The earlier a child or teen gets help, the more likely they will get back to and maintain a good quality of life.

For more information, we recommend the ABCs of Mental Health, at http://www.hincksdellcrest.org/abc/welcome
    
Next month’s Minds Matter @ KPR article will offer suggestions on responding to someone experiencing distress.


Judy Malfara
Communications Officer - School Liaison
Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board
Phone: 705-742-9773 or toll-free 877-741-4577, ext. 2001
Fax: 705-743-3538

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