By Heather Cornell
Growing up, my brothers struggled with mental health disorders. As a child, my older brother suffered from weight issues and struggled with being heavier than the rest of us. He used to consume a massive amount of food all at once and then induce vomiting afterward. My other brother also suffered from mental health issues. As a child, he acted out often and was very OCD. Everything had to be in a certain place, or he would obsess over it. Considering my siblings, and I rarely visited the doctor or dentist; my parents thought my brother’s behaviors were normal. Living in a poverty-stricken household, my siblings and I often fended for ourselves. As we grew older, my older brother stopped binge eating and vomiting. He developed friendships through school and found himself doing more physical activities, such as playing basketball and football. Since my brothers were not diagnosed or treated by a physician, I knew later in life, they would be at risk in developing risk- taking behaviors. I knew I wanted to find a way for children to get the proper care they needed to cope with mental health disorders.
Identifying mental health disorders in children can be quite troublesome for parents. Parents often don’t realize what are normal behaviors and when their child exhibits negative behaviors. Most parents of children exhibiting negative behaviors may not see that their behaviors are serious and choose to ignore it. However, identifying mental health issues can change a child’s life tremendously. No child should be left undiagnosed and not treated properly. Bulimia nervosa is another psychiatric disorder commonly associated with a mental health disorder such as depression. Often, boys are not considered to suffer from eating disorders like bulimia. However, for boys, they imagine their body to have a muscular physique like their favorite athlete seen on television. Common symptoms of Bulimia are eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time, this is commonly known as binging. Another sign is experiencing feelings of shame after eating resulting in purging food from the body after eating. Using diet pills and excessive exercise to prevent weight gain are also common signs.
CDC researchers used parent-reported information from the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health. Researchers found that 1 in 7 U.S. children aged 2 to 8 years were reported to have a diagnosed mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. Family, community, and health-care factors were related to the children having mental, behavioral, or developmental disorders. From a study conducted by 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health, parents reported fair or poor mental health, trouble getting by on the family’s income, or having to quit or change jobs because of problems related to childcare. The survey also showed that the neighborhood they lived in lacked support, didn’t have amenities and was in poor condition and had poor insurance or no medical home. The reasoning for this survey was to identify important factors associated with mental disorders in early childhood. According to an article from the American Psychological Association, an estimated 15 million of our nation’s young people can be diagnosed with a mental disorder. Another important program to help with eating disorders is The National Eating Disorders Screening Program. It was designed to promote early detection and treatment seeking in adolescents with untreated eating disorder symptoms. This program is a non-profit organization that screens for mental health issues.
As someone going in the public health field, childhood mental health disorders are one of my biggest concerns. The question that I want to address is how we can prevent children from underreporting their painful emotions and behaviors? I want to propose that teachers and staff are more trained in identifying possible mental health issues in children. Another proposal is to have physicians come around to schools quarterly in low-income areas to conduct mental health evaluations in children who do not have regular doctor visits. There shouldn’t be any hurdles from preventing my proposals because there are many resources out there that can help get school members trained. When it comes to a child, mental health should be addressed at school. Physical activity is taken seriously throughout the school system, why not make it mandatory to address mental health as well. As we grow older, let’s make a difference in our children’s lives by implementing mental health assessments in the classroom. It’s never too early to make a difference or a change in a child’s life.