The link between mental health, behaviour and student learning is well accepted. Mental illness can seriously affect a child's ability to reach his or her potential. These problems cause much distress and impact the way these students act at home, at school, with their peers and in the community.
School climate, classroom behaviour, on-task learning, and students' sense of connectedness all affect a child’s wellbeing. Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness but also encompasses social, emotional, and behavioural health and the ability to cope with life's challenges.
We know that anxiety and depression is on the rise in our kids. While it is normal for children to have problems from time to time, and to express anger, sadness, frustration or to show anxiety, it becomes a problem if this behaviour is regular and interferes with their ability to go to school and socialise with friends.
Here are some tips to watch out for in your kids as they move into those teenage years when often anxiety and depression become more evident:
- Mood changes. Look for feelings of sadness or withdrawal that last at least two weeks or severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships at home or school.
- Intense feelings. Be aware of feelings of overwhelming fear for no reason — sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing — or worries or fears intense enough to interfere with daily activities.
- Behaviour changes. These include drastic changes in behaviour or personality, as well as dangerous or out-of-control behaviour. Fighting frequently, using weapons and expressing a desire to badly hurt others also are warning signs.
- Difficulty concentrating. Look for signs of trouble focusing or sitting still, both of which might lead to poor performance in school.
- Unexplained weight loss. A sudden loss of appetite, frequent vomiting or use of laxatives might indicate an eating disorder.
- Physical symptoms. Compared with adults, children with a mental health condition might develop headaches and stomach-aches rather than sadness or anxiety.
- Physical harm. Sometimes a mental health condition leads to self-injury, also called self-harm. This is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. Children with a mental health condition also might develop suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide.
- Substance abuse. Some kids use drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their feelings.
It's good to be aware of changes in your child. Symptoms to look out for include feeling stressed or sad all the time, feeling angry or anxious, not sleeping well or sleeping too much or changes in appetite, mood or behaviour. If you see any of these symptoms it is worth making a GP appointment and asking for a referral to get your child the right help. This child mental health checklist could be a good starting point to assess your child’s mental health.
If you are interested to talk to our expert Education Team about how we can help support you and child through tutoring then get in touch on 1300698886. If you are interested in our free assessment then simply complete our online form and we'll be in touch.