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Mental Illness and Children

Recognizing Mental Illness in Your Classroom

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How do you know when a child you teach is suffering from a mental health issue?

Research indicates that somewhere between 3-8% of children have some form of a mental health issue/disorder and that the incidents of children with mental health issues are on the rise.

Mental health issues aren't like other health issues as they affect behavior and or mood. The behaviors and moods are what you have to rely on as opposed to pain and fevers etc.

Some of the more common mental health issues seen among children include:

  • Adjustment Disorder
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Depression
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Conduct Disorder (CD)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Attention Hyper Deficit Disorder (ADHD)
  • Eating Disorders (Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bi-polar Disorder (Manic-Depressive)
There are certain signs that teachers often observe when a child is suffering from a mental disorder. Although many of the signs or symptoms can be suffered at some time by many children, one should ask themselves if the behavior is unusually intensive, out of the norm, age appropriate and if the behavior is having a negative impact on academic functioning or social interactions.

Look for the following signs:

  • Weaker marks and overall achievement.
  • Difficulty with friends and social situations.
  • Fits or outbursts of anger or possibly rage.
  • Less interested in snacks or lunch.
  • Becoming rebellious.
  • Lacks interest in school life in general.
  • Lacks motivation and energy.
  • Self-injurious.
  • Bully type behaviors.
If any of the signs or combinations of signs occur, it is important to seek help, firstly by getting in touch with the parents to see if the symptoms are happening at home. Identify the concerns you are seeing and put preventative measures in place. Early intervention is key to helping children suffering from mental health issues. Remember, mental health problems can be treated when identified. Early identification is crucial.

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