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Psychiatrist and Children

It Is Hard For Parents To Recognize Mental Illness In the Children

All children go through different emotions and struggles. In fact, they are developmentally expected to have temper tantrums, meltdowns, and outbursts at some point. However, there are times that these behaviours could be signs of underlying problems. It can therefore be tough to determine if a certain behaviour is just part of growing up or a possible issue that requires professional help.

To differentiate between the two, pay attention to how long the behaviour lasts, how severe it tends to be, and whether it impacts a child’s ability to function or affects other people. For example, if the outburst is interfering with their daily life at home or school, then you should seek a mental health professional. The same goes for if your child goes through extended meltdowns that make you late for work every day.

What are the warning signs that help spot mental illness in children?

To make it easier for parents to identify if they should get professional help for their child, a group of mental health experts (led by Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Peter Jensen, who is the president of the Resource for Advancing Children’s Health) came up with a list of signs that helps separate warning signs of mental illness from typical childhood behaviour.

Two federal agencies, the Center for Mental Health Services and the National Institute of Mental Health, funded the testing of the list against 6,000 children with diagnosed psychiatric disorders and found that the signs can be used to detect 8% of the 15% youth estimated to have mental illness.

Here are the 11 warning signs parents should look out for:

  1. Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still that puts them in physical danger or causes school failure

  2. Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities

  3. Sudden overwhelming fear without reason, sometimes accompanied by a racing heart rate or fast breathing

  4. Feelings of intense sadness or withdrawal for two or more weeks

  5. Extreme mood swings that cause problems in relationships

  6. Drastic changes in behavior or personality

  7. Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to induce weight loss

  8. Repeated use of alcohol or drugs

  9. Severe, out-of-control behavior that can hurt oneself or others

  10. Serious attempts or plans to harm or kill oneself

  11. Involvement in multiple fights, use of a weapon, or serious intention to hurt others


What should you do if you suspect your child has a mental health disorder?

If your child exhibits any of the 11 warning signs, consult a mental health professional. They will be able to give an accurate diagnosis and develop an appropriate treatment to support your child’s continued growth and development.

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Consulting with a psychiatrist for your child  is an opportunity to detect stressors or illnesses in the early stages and getting the treatment that can prevent problems later in life.    


Child Guidance Clinic
Sir Branford Taitt Polyclinic
Black Rock
Telephone 246- 536-3119

Dr. Sharon Harvey
35 Kingston Terrace, Welches, St Michael
Telephone 246-429-7144

Dr. Maisha Emmanuel 
ARS Medicae, 6th Ave Belleville
Tel 427-5552

Dr. Elizabeth Rochester 
Appleby, St. James
Telephone 432-7751

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