We all love the goofy, silly things that come out of kids mouths (and sometimes, they’re pretty dang insightful!). Like adults, though, kids can be affected by mental health issues like anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and even suicidal thoughts. It’s scary to think about, but it’s important to know the signs of these concerns in kids, because the sooner kids are treated and receive support for mental health problems, often, the better the results are.
Why do some kids develop mental health issues?
Some kids develop mental health issues as they grow, sometimes as a result of experiences in childhood (such as neglect, abuse, or under stimulation), whereas others are simply born with mental health issues, or a genetic predisposition to these conditions. 
What mental health issues may occur in kids?
Kids can be affected by a host of mental health conditions—not just limited to things like autism and ADHD (which are also accurately categorized as neuro-developmental disorders). Oppositional defiance disorder, also known as conduct disorder, is diagnosed in childhood, causing uncontrollable behaviour. Kids may also commonly experience anxiety, and depression can also affect children, as can eating disorders. While relatively uncommon, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can also occur in childhood. [1.1] All of these conditions, if identified and treated appropriately, can be managed through a combination of home and school accommodations, psychotherapy (counselling), occupational therapy in some cases, and medication. Art therapy and play therapy may help children to better explain their thoughts and feelings than they can in traditional talk therapy.
Managing the unpredictability of mental illness in children
Mental illness can be confusing and difficult for all involved—when it affects children, it is often even more difficult to understand how to move forward. Building a support network of professionals, friend and family can help families of children with mental health concerns to support their children, and provide hope. While children with mental illness may not experience traditional medical crises associated with their condition, psychological or psychiatric emergencies are real and can include self harm, ideation of harm to others, or communication of suicidal ideology or suicide attempts. Even outside of a crisis, some behaviours of children with mental illness may be confusing, such as if they experience hallucinations (attributed to both schizophrenia and, in some cases, bipolar disorder). These symptoms may not be life threatening, but can be alarming to those who do not know of their diagnosis.
Children encounter many people throughout the day, and each needs to be educated about the child’s mental illness and what may be “normal” for that child, versus what is a “red flag”. While a written plan should be provided to caregivers and teachers, and education provided, a mental illness medical ID bracelet stating the child’s diagnosis, or any long term medications that may have side effects is important in case of an emergency. The contact number for the child’s parent or guardian, as well as perhaps the number for their psychiatrist should also be included on the medical ID bracelet or necklace for mental illness.
Life with a child with mental health concerns can be difficult, but by being prepared and educating others about your child’s situation, you can know that your child is protected and supported, even in the most challenging of circumstances.