Why mental health matters as your child goes regularly to school; Expert shares - Hindustan Times

Why mental health matters as your child goes regularly to school; Expert shares insights

Nov 04, 2022 11:53 AM IST

Most mental illnesses begin to show early symptoms between the ages of 15 and 17, yet the majority of people only seek care as adults. Check out the importance of mental health for your child as they regularly go to school.

Before entering into why mental health matters for children, parents and teachers need to have clarity on what mental health is. Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), USA defines child mental health as reaching developmental and emotional milestones and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems. Though this is a widely accepted definition of healthy mental development, the Government of India also clarifies that apart from attaining milestones, mental health is not merely the absence of disease, but is the state of overall physical and social well-being. (Also read: Here's how schools can contribute to good mental health of kids )

Why mental health matters as your child goes regularly to school; Expert shares insights(pixabay)
Why mental health matters as your child goes regularly to school; Expert shares insights(pixabay)

Most often, mental illness begins to show early symptoms between the ages of 15 and 17, yet the majority of people only seek care as adults. We can stop the progression of mental diseases through early intervention if schools, teachers and parents take an active role in mental health.

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In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Meghna Yadav, Child Psychologist and Head of Training, KLAY, shared insights on the importance of the mental health of your child as they go regularly to school.

Role of school and society

School and society around a child play a very crucial role in the development of holistic mental health of children. When a child comes out of the protected environment at home, that is when they encounter the real challenges of life. At this junction, it is important to have a balanced and healthy mental state.

The balanced emotional and mental state of a child is found to be significant when it comes to academic success. If a child can manage grades, participate in classroom discussions, and regularly attend school, parents and teachers can take these as good indicators of a child's mental state. On the other hand, if a child struggles, it is difficult to notice it unless it reaches a grave situation.

Red flags to watch out for

Firstly, both parents and teachers need to be watchful of manifestations such as attention deficits, cognitive disturbances, lack of motivation, and negative mood exhibited by the child in day-to-day activities. The most important role of a healthy mental state is to allow the child to use his or her potential to maximum capacity. In absence of a healthy mental state, a child might not exercise the potential that he or she is blessed with.

Mental health and basic human skills

Multiple studies indicate that a healthy mental state not only results in academic growth but also feeds basic human skills like leadership, socialization abilities and problem-solving. A strong mental state allows the child to stay focused on tasks and supports the development of healthy social bonds. In absence of this, children tend to exhibit behaviour which is inappropriate and detrimental to the development of strong personality traits. This can better be understood with an example of Hyperkinetic Disorder, commonly known as HKD. It is one of the most common mental health problems, with a prevalence of 1–6% among children, especially in post-pandemic times.

The key symptoms include pronounced hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder, and increased impulsivity. Children with HKD are easily distracted, jump up in class, shout out into the classroom, can focus their attention for a short timespan only, miss important information in class, disrupt their fellow students, drop class materials, or topple over with their chairs. In such cases, children are not able to adhere to expected structured behaviour over several hours and eventually, end up losing self-confidence. Unfortunately, this is an irreparable loss and might take years to overcome the challenge.

Nurture and intervene early

In summary, if a child is blessed to have a strong mental and emotional state, this has to be nurtured by significant adults around a child. But in case, there is a slight sign of the fragile mental state of a child, that cannot be neglected at any cost. Mental health problems in children like hyperkinetic disorder, depressive traits, and specific developmental disorders of scholastic skills such as reading, arithmetic or spelling disorder, impair children’s and adolescents’ performance and notably increase the risk for truancy and related problems. This cannot be taken lightly and if addressed in time with a scientific mindset, instead of stigmatizing, can be eliminated from a child’s life.

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