Alarming number of parents can't identify mental health struggles in children

Published: 10 October 2017

KIDS

Alarming number of parents cant identify mental health struggles in children

The majority of parents cannot confidently identify whether their child may be suffering from mental health issues, according to a new study.

The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne polled 2000 Australian parents, and  found only one in three could confidently identify and respond to signs of mental health issues in their kids.

One quarter of parents don’t realise persistent complaints like headaches or tummy aches could be the sign of a mental health problem.

While one of the most frightening statistics revealed a third of parents believe a child’s mental health problems are best left alone to work themselves out over time.

Doctors say this is alarming, and could make mental health issues worse.

“They can become embedded and entrenched and it makes it more difficult to turn those problems around,” Doctor Anthea Rhodes from The Royal Children’s Hospital said.

Mother of three, Cathie Beven, recently found out one of her young daughters suffers anxiety.

Unlike the majority of parents, Mrs Beven was one of the 33 percent able to identify her daughter’s mental health struggle, after the young girl suffered symptoms including poor sleep, headaches and a lack of enthusiasm.

“Children live in quite a rushed world and can have different expectations and pressures on them so I probably wasn’t surprised to be honest,” Mrs Beven said.

“It’s not a big unknown anymore, it’s not a taboo.”

But identifying the issue is only half of the problem.

Fewer than half of the 2000 parents surveyed were confident about knowing where to get professional help.

“It’s about putting away the distractions, which are so present in life, and taking just a few moments to focus on and interact with your child,” Dr Rhodes said.

Experts also suggest GPs, school teachers and counsellors are vital resources to turn to, if you suspect your child may need help.