To kick off Children's Mental Health Week, we wanted to share a list of some of the myths that still unfortunately surround mental health. While the world is becoming more accepting of mental health challenges and the generation of children in today's society seem more comfortable than ever talking about their mental health - these still exist and they negatively harm individuals who struggle.
We'd love for you to help us get put an end to these harmful ideas by sharing these facts with your friends and family.
1. MYTH: Children don't have mental health challenges.
FACT: Children can and DO struggle with their mental health.
We wanted to start of strong with one of the most common, and most frustrating myths we come across almost daily. In fact half of all psychiatric illness occurs before 14 and 75% before the age of 24.* This myth is incredibly harmful as we know that getting a child the help they need as soon as signs and symptoms are noticed gives them the best possible outcome.
2. MYTH: Mental health looks the same for kids as it does for adults
FACT: Children may have different mental health symptoms than adults when they are struggling.
Children and adults feel and process things in different ways. Perhaps a child will mention that they have a stomach ache and can't go to school. Or they may be very fearful of something out of nowhere like storms, or dogs. These could both be symptoms that your child is struggling with their anxiety, but they may not recognize it as anything more than a stomach ache. That is why it's so important for parents know and are able to watch out for the symptoms and signs that a child may be struggling with their mental health.
3. MYTH: Girls don't have ADHD.
Fact: Girls can and do struggle with ADHD - they just might exhibit different symptoms than boys.
ADHD in girls often goes under-diagnosed and is misunderstood because many of the signs and symptoms that girls display are "drowned out by the loud, hyperactive boys who demonstrate the condition’s stereotypical behavior." However, that does NOT mean that girls do not also struggle with ADHD.
4. MYTH: Being in the LGBTQIA+ community means you will have a mental health challenge.
FACT: Being a member of the LGBTQIA+ does NOT at all indicate whether or not someone will struggle with their mental health. However, nasty stigmas and societal pressures can have a negative impact on the mental health of individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.
We have a large number of resources on our website for parents of LGBTQIA+ youth NOT because it is automatic that an individual in the community will have a mental health challenge. We have them because everyday in the media, in the courtroom, on social media, in school, and sometimes even with family LGBTQIA+ members face adversity that can adversely impact their mental health.
5. MYTH: An eating disorder is a lifestyle choice, not a mental health challenge.
FACT: Not only are eating disorders a mental health challenge, according to the National Library of Medicine they are among the mental health challenges with the highest mortality rates.
6. MYTH: School shooters are always bullied children.
FACT: There is no profile of a student who will cause harm. Profiling risks wrongly
including many children who would never consider committing a violent act and
wrongly excluding some children who might.
7. MYTH: Medicating a child who struggles with a mental health challenge is bad.
FACT: Medication can seriously improve the life of a child who struggles with their mental health.
We get it - giving your child medication can be very scary. It is hard to not think of the potential side effects, and how it can impact your child long-term. However, we encourage you to not let this fear deter you from learning more about your child's medication options. Don't immediately shut down the option because of misconceptions you've heard and fears you have.
8. MYTH: Talking about suicide with a child puts the idea into their head.
FACT: Talking about suicide does NOT put the idea into anyone's head.
Perhaps you have heard this myth that asking your child about suicide will put that idea in their head. This is not the case at all! We asked Rose Milani, Program Director of the Pennsylvania Youth Suicide Prevention Project, to debunk it for our readers. “Asking your child directly if they are thinking about suicide is the most effective way to determine if they are at risk, and studies show that this will not put the idea in their head if it’s not there already.”
9. MYTH: A person who struggles with their mental health is more likely to be violent.
FACT: Of all crimes committed by people with serious mental disorders, only 7.5%
were directly related to symptoms of mental illness.**
Actually, we know that people with mental illness are actually more likely to be a
victim of violent crime rather than the perpetrator of a crime.
10. MYTH: A person who struggles with their mental health cannot have a productive life.
FACT: This couldn't be further from the truth. Individuals with mental health challenges can live big, beautiful, and full lives.
This myth is one that we know a lot of parents think about. Once your child is diagnosed with a mental health challenge it can become scary for a parent to think of their child's future. However so many people that we look up to and admire struggle with and manage mental health challenges.
From Selena Gomez, to Michael Phelps, to Dwyane the Rock Johnson to some of the biggest tech and business minds in the world - they have all successfully managed adulthood with a mental health challenge. Not only celebrities but statistically so many of the adults that you know, love, and rely on struggle with their mental health and they are able to have a productive and successful life.
It is so important that you keep talking about and dispelling these harmful myths about children's mental health. Use the social media icons below to share this post with your network to do your part in breaking down the stigmas that still surround mental health.
*Child's Mind Institute Children's Mental Health Report, 2015
**Studdert DM, Zhang Y, Holsinger EE, Prince L, Holsinger AF, Rodden JA, Wintemute GJ, Miller M.Homicide Deaths Among Adult Cohabitants of Handgun Owners in California, 2004 to 2016: A Cohort Study. Annals of internal medicine. 2022;175(6):804-11. Epub 20220405. PubMed PMID: 35377715.