Debunking 6 Child Mental Health Myths | Tayyari Jeet Ki By Bournvita
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Mental Health|02 September 2021

Debunking 6 child mental health myths

Written by Pragya Lodha
The Mumbai Program Director & Clinical Psychologist at The MINDS Foundation. Honorary Associate Editor for the Indian Journal of Mental Health with over 100 National and International publications

Myth 1: Mental Illnesses cannot affect children

Fact: Mental illness can affect anyone, no matter what their age! Very often, the first signs of mental illness begins to appear during childhood and therefore, paying close attention to mental health during these developmental years is key.

Myth: Parenting is responsible for mental illnesses in children

Fact: There is no one cause for mental illnesses in any individuals. Mental illnesses are a complex play of biological factors (genes, hormones and development), psychological (personality type, temperament, etc.) and social factors (environment, upbringing etc.)- and parenting is only one of the factors among many.

Myth: Mental illnesses are just an excuse for poor behavior

Fact: It’s true that some children who experience mental illnesses may act in ways that are unexpected or seem strange to others. They may become aggressive, violent and restless, or they may become extremely quiet and reclusive. We need to remember that the illness, not the child is responsible for these behaviours. No one chooses to experience a mental illness. Children who experience a change in their behaviour due to a mental illness may feel extremely embarrassed or ashamed around others.

Myth: Children won’t recover from mental illnesses and will have to live with it for the rest of their growing years.

Fact: With modern medical revolution and therapeutic intervention available, treatment for children’s mental health issues are available. A supportive environment at home and school are conducive to better recovery. Some illnesses may take longer to recover (except for illnesses like autism spectrum disorder, severe intellectual delay or other complications which may be lifelong conditions).

Myth: Mental illness is a consequence of personal weaknesses

Fact: It can be difficult to separate the symptoms of psychiatric disorder that a child may be suffering from (impulsive behavior, aggressiveness, or extreme anxiety) from a child’s personality. But a psychiatric disorder is an illness, just like diabetes or typhoid, and not a personality type. This can be managed with the help of their parents, an effective diagnosis and treatment plan.

Myth: Therapy for children is a waste of time.

Fact: Therapy today most commonly uses

Today’s best evidence-based treatment programs for children and adolescents use cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are causing them serious problems. Therapies are adapted to a level that children and adolescents can understand and adapt to. There are therapies specific to children, as and when the need arises (play therapy, filial therapy, art therapy).

Myth: Psychiatric medication is not for children.

Fact: The truth, however, is that medically sound psychiatrists use enormous care when deciding whether and how to start a child on a treatment plan that includes medication — usually along with behavioral therapy. The dosage of medication is taken care of for the children. 

Myth: Children and adolescents can grow out of the mental illnesses they suffer from.

Fact: Children are less likely to “grow out” of psychiatric disorders than they are to get into more debilitating conditions. Most mental health problems left untreated in childhood become more difficult to treat in adulthood. Since we know that most psychiatric disorders emerge before 15 years, we should have huge incentive to screen young people for emotional and behavioral problems.

Myth: Mental illness is the same as mental disability. The child will not be able to do anything if they suffer from a mental illness.

Fact: The two are very different and involve differing treatment and care plans. A mental disability is a cognitive disability, and mental illness has nothing to do with a child’s mental capabilities. It does not mean that the child cannot do anything if he suffers from a mental illness.

Myth: A child with mental illness cannot go to school, have relationships or lead a regular life.

Fact: The mental illness in a child in most cases can be managed well with medical and therapeutic interventions. Worldwide, around 10-20% of children and adolescents suffer from a mental illness but that does not mean they cannot go to school or don’t have friends. With appropriate care, they can also lead a regular life while managing their illness.

The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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