How to spot the signs your child needs help with mental health

Parents can play a crucial role in helping support their children’s mental health and wellbeing.

Experts are highlighting how important it is to be vigilant in the home – and how to spot warning signs that your child is troubled.

It comes as the Daily Record joins force with SAMH – Scottish Association for Mental Health – to raise awareness of a mental health crisis among youngsters.

It is now clear that three children in every classroom will experience mental health problems, such as eating disorders and anxiety, by the time they are 16.

Nearly one in five 16 to 24-year-olds have reported self- harm, and suicide is now the second most common cause of death in young people aged 15 to 19.

The mental health charity are urging young people join their campaign at samh.org.uk/goingtobe and help give Scotland’s young people every chance to get the help they need.

Dr Michael Hymans, an educational psychologist, said: “Adolescents tend to be risk-takers and they listen to their peers more than their parents.
“So, if their peers are taking drugs or indulging in other risky behaviour, they are likely to copy them without thinking about the consequences.

“If you detect unusual behaviour that is completely out of character and not related to external circumstances such as exam pressure, it’s important to get your child assessed by a clinical psychologist.

“The worst thing parents can do is go it alone and rely on a book, or go online to try to solve the problem.
“A professional can help with well-researched therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy or mindfulness, to help them look at how their negative thoughts are influencing their behaviour and feelings. An expert will show them how to manage these thoughts and how to develop resilience by looking at how they respond to knockbacks.”

Dr Rachel Andrew, a clinical psychologist, believes parents are most likely to spot problems, as they know their children best.

She said: “Trust your instincts and if you notice a sudden change that worries you, seek help.

“I’ve had parents who had a feeling something wasn’t right but didn’t act quickly enough – and then it’s too late and there may be self-harm or suicide. Self-harming should always be taken extremely seriously.

“Adolescents can find it difficult to talk to parents but if you are ‘loitering’ around them, often they will open up by themselves.

“Don’t badger them with questions or offer advice without listening to what they are saying.

“What is particularly effective is ‘sideways talking’, conversations you might have in the car or carrying out a joint activity that don’t involve eye contact.”
Worried about your child? Here are the main warning signs you should look out for.

Wearing long-sleeves in hot weather – this could be an attempt to hide evidence of self-harm
Weight loss, which could indicate an eating disorder
Behaviour that you haven’t seen before and that is getting worse and not associated with something that is happening, such as exams
A youngster spending too much time shut up in his or her room, or in the bathroom, could indicate withdrawal and/or self-harm as a result of depression or bullying
A change in sleep routines
Changes in diet or appetite could point to an eating disorder, anxiety or depression
A sociable youngster becoming isolated in their bedroom, refusing to join the family for meals, and not seeing friends.
The SAMH website has lots of information and advice for young people and parents at www.samh.org.uk/goingtobe

If you need urgent help call ChildLine free on 0800 1111 or the NSPCC Adult Helpline on 0808 800 5000.

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