Thursday, 26 October 2017

Mental Health Problem in Kids- the parents fault?

So this week I got involved in a discussion on the Guardian.

It was an article about the growing waiting list for CAMHs services for young people, something that I have experienced and have strong views on. 
When I read down through the comments there were some very interesting thoughts but also some very narrow-minded ones too.

So I just wanted to address and explore the opinions of those that feel mental health problems in young people are the fault of the parents.

Firstly I want to address the 'moddy-coddling' theory.

There seems to be those that feel that mental health problems in children stem from those children being over-indulged, spoilt or have been helicopter parented.
There are whimsical tales of the good old days when a clip round the ear would sort your child out! 
The reality is that Mental Health issues aren't a fad or a child misbehaving. They are an illness.
If my daughter needed a wheelchair because her legs caused her pain, society wouldn't dare question it, they would hold the door open. 
But when it's in the head, when it's a chemical imbalance or the brains response to a traumatic experience they are accused of being a spoilt brat. 
If self-harm and depression were a result of moddy-coddling then both my children would show these behaviours- but my son does not. 

The next misconception is that mental illness in children stems from a dysfunctional or neglectful home.

This is one I find incredibly offensive and naive. 
Yes there are many children in the UK and indeed the world who experience neglect and/or poor parenting, there are children who experience terrible things in the family home and this will undoubtedly affect their mental health.
But there are also children who suffer from mental health issues that are brought up in stable and loving environments.
There are children in family units that display mental health difficulties whilst their siblings do not, and there are children who suffer trauma away from the family unit which affects their mental health.

We are a 'normal' family and have a very close extended family. 
There is no addiction in my home, no abuse of any kind or violent behaviour.
My children's needs have always been met, they have been brought up in a strong and stable environment. They had stories at bedtime, food on the table every night and I've never used smacking as a form of discipline. 
Other than the death of my parents, my children have never been exposed to emotional turmoil nor have they experienced or witnessed violence.
Sometimes there isn't really a single thing to pinpoint for a parent to say 'That's why she behaves like this' because actually, it's an illness. A condition.
And as I said before if it were a physical condition no one would question this.  



mental health problems in children are parents to blame?


The third misconception is that its all about attention seeking

There seems to be a belief that self-harm and depression in kids is just an extension of their development from child to adult and a way to get attention.
This is not something I can agree with at all. 
Self-harmers actually go to extreme lengths to conceal their self-harm from their loved ones.
And as well as cutting can also adopt other harmful behaviours such as scratching, pulling hair or eyebrows and burning. The list is endless. 
But all kept as a secret. 
They feel guilt and shame but cannot resist the overwhelming urge to release their emotions in this way. I have been to A&E with a self-harmer and can honestly say it's a horrible experience, not something that someone does to get their own way or to get more attention than their siblings.
Even when these behaviours are made known to others is it attention seeking? or is it a cry for help? The very fact that someone finds self-harm as a release is an indication that they need professional support.


The fourth misconception is that its a sign of the times

I do believe that growing up in modern society, with social media, exam pressure and families under pressure it is much harder than my own childhood but depression, anxiety and self-harm aren't a new phenomenon.

'I grew up in the war, we didn't have all this depression malarky, we didn't have time to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves we had to get on with it'

Well, guess what? Mental health issues have existed as long as written records began! 
There are many fully grown adults including pensioners who live with mental health issues, If this was all new then no one above the age of 50 would be suffering from their mental health.
The difference is that now we are much more open about mental health.  
We know now that it is not something to be ashamed of.

Telling your child to pull their socks up and get on with it may sound like an appealing and socially acceptable way to manage when they are feeling down and overwhelmed with the world but in the long term, unaddressed mental health problems in children will no doubt be carried into their adult life. 


My fifth and final misconception is my child's problems are the NHS's problem, not mine

In the article, there were a few comments about having a self-entitled attitude towards the NHS and access to services.
In the UK we pay into a national health system which means that we contribute from our earnings and when we need treatment and support we can access it. 
I've worked all my life and my dad also contributed 50 years of tax to this system as did his father and so on. 

Nowhere in life would we accept as a society to keep paying for a service that gets worse and worse. You wouldn't keep going back to the same coffee shop if the queue got longer every morning, the prices were increasing but the quality of coffee was declining and you had to beg for a refill. Our system in the UK is flawed and so much worse under a Tory government of austerity and budget cuts.

There are ailments and illnesses that parents can treat at home without medical support from the NHS- chicken pox, the flu, slap cheek. 
But not depression and anxiety. I do not have the skills required to help my daughter change her coping mechanisms. 
I can help her through a panic attack but I'm not trained to know how to prevent them in the first place.
I can buy bandages and dress a wound but I don't what methods to adopt to prevent the self-harm in the first place.


CAMHs

I don't feel I have an unrealistic expectation of the NHS.
My expectation was that my child was displaying behaviours that I could not help her with on my own and that someone would help me.
If she was displaying symptoms of a heart problem she would be a priority due to the risk of a life-threatening condition but there are so many suicides in young people every year which could be prevented if the right help was available at the point when it is needed. 

These children and young adults will grow up to be tax-paying members of society. 
It seems counter-productive not to invest in their mental well-being if as result they carry these mental health problems into their adult life and invariably cost the NHS more money long term. For me, it's a no-brainer. Help them while they are young. 

If you are a parent of someone displaying mental health behaviours that you are concerned about don't feel ashamed, and don't keep hoping its a phase that they will come out of ( i did this for a long time) 

Please take advice from someone who knows! 
Speak to the school, speak to your GP, keep asking for help. 
Don't hold back in fear of seeming like a neurotic parent as I did. 
Because without help your child's mental issues can spiral out of control and the damage may become irreversible.

And most importantly try not to feel like you've failed. 

Remember

it's an illness. 





For further help and advice, you can visit the young minds website
They also have a helpline for parents on 0808 802 5544 (UK only) 

You can read the Guardian article and the comments left by readers here 











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