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Did you know that 1 in 5 Ontario children under 19 years of age experience a mental health issue that is severe enough to disrupt their daily functioning? Although this statistic can seem very alarming, the good news is that early intervention can lead to a better life for these children. But early intervention can only occur if parents seek help at this stage of life. Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma attached to mental health issues, and consequently, many parents ignore or refuse to acknowledge the existence of a mental health disorder. It’s now time to get rid of negative stereotypes surrounding mental health and help these kids thrive. If mental health issues can be diagnosed early – even as early as infancy – the future prospects for that child will be improved given that scientific evidence proves that the majority of brain development occurs between 0-6 years old.

Some of the more common mental health disorders affecting children and youth are Anxiety, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Behaviour Disorders, Mood Disorders, Eating Disorders, Schizophrenia, Substance Abuse and Tourette Syndrome.

Recognizing the symptoms of a mental health issue is the key to early intervention. It may be difficult to know when you should seek help for your child. How do you recognize the symptoms of a mental health issue? Here’s a list of characteristics and behaviours that may be signs of an underlying mental health disorder:

  • getting significantly lower marks in school
  • avoiding friends and family
  • having frequent outbursts of anger and rage
  • losing his or her appetite
  • having difficulty sleeping
  • rebelling against authority
  • drinking a lot and/or using drugs
  • not doing the things he or she used to enjoy
  • worrying constantly
  • experiencing frequent mood swings
  • not concerned with his or her appearance
  • obsessed with his or her weight
  • lacking energy or motivation
  • hitting or bullying other children
  • attempting to injure him or her self

Children and youth with the most serious mental health disorders (e.g., severe psychosis or schizophrenia) may exhibit:

  • distorted thinking
  • excessive anxiety
  • odd body movements
  • abnormal mood swings
  • acting overly suspicious of others
  • seeing or hearing things that others don’t see or hear

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, contact your doctor and check out these resources for support.

Children`s Mental Health Ontario

www.kidsmentalhealth.ca

Sick Kids Hospital

www.aboutkidshealth.ca

The ABCs of Mental Health

www.hincksdellcrest.org/ABC

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

www.ldao.ca

National Centre for Learning Disabilities

www.ncld.org

Reaching In Reaching Out

www.reachinginreachingout.com/resources-parents.htm

Peel Behavioural Services

www.peelbehaviouralservices.ca

Peel Children’s Centre

www.peelcc.org