According to a report by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, somewhere between 14%-20% of young people a year experience some sort of mental, emotional, or behavior disorder a year. The report goes on to highlight the importance of early detection and intervention in order to minimize the impact of the disorders. Mental disorders can interfere with a child’s healthy development. Gone untreated, many children and teens will have problems at home, in school, and in forming friendships.
There are many barriers to mental health, including poverty, systemic racism, and societal stigma. However, there is one barrier that youth face that may be the biggest one of all for them: their caregivers. Children and teens under the age of 18 often require the consent of their parents or guardians to receive mental health treatment. When parents do not give this consent, they have created a barrier to their child’s mental health. This can also occur if parents deny the means to access mental health services, such as transportation and payment.
To see if you are a potential barrier to your child’s mental health, think through these questions.
- What are your personal beliefs about mental health? Not surprisingly, there seems to be a strong connection between the mental health of a parent and a child. Parents who take their own mental health seriously tend to take their child’s mental health seriously as well. As a parent’s mental health literacy increases, they are able to recognize more warning signs in their children and take action early.
- What is your comfort level in talking through difficult mental/emotional topics with your children? As parents plan for their children, they don’t often think about the difficult conversations that will inevitably come up. How prepared are you to discuss topics such as gender identity, sexual activity, and suicide with your child or teen? If these topics are difficult for you, seek access to mental health providers instead of shying away from them!
- How do you feel about the potential costs of mental health services for your child? Let’s face it, mental health services cost both time and money! It’s tempting to shrug and say, “They’ll be fine! I went through the same thing at their age and got through it.” Consider this, though: Would you say the same thing about their physical health?
This list is not intended to be an exhaustive checklist. However, it should give you some sense of your own views and beliefs about your child and their mental health. If you have questions about whether your child needs counseling, feel free to contact us at Heartland Therapy Connection. We are here to answer as many of those questions as we can, and our therapists would be delighted to meet with your child! Call us at (816) 287-0252, and let us know how we can help!