Every year, millions of Americans suffer from mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (BD), which render them incapable of doing everyday activities. Even children are not immune to the prevailing crisis of mental health problems. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly half of all mental issues start appearing in children before they attain 14 years of age.
While in some children, a family history of mental illness might increase the risk of developing a disorder, many others are susceptible to such disabilities due to negative environment, past traumatic experiences, abusive relationships, etc. Side effects to certain medications, an exposure to radioactive substances and accidents during childhood may also result in a cognitive decline during the adult years.
A 2017 study, published in the Nature Neuroscience and conducted by researchers from the University of Oslo, explored the uniqueness of connections in the brain of growing children. As per the researchers, such distinctive characteristics could provide an essential cue for the identification of mental disorders in adulthood. The research also tried to establish as to why some children are more predisposed to mental problems, than others.
Brain development replete with unique brain connections
During the course of the study, the researchers evaluated the data of brain imaging performed on a number of children and adolescents. They then tried to identify the uniqueness in each person’s brain network by using an advanced technique called fingerprinting, which uses repeated brain scans. It was found that the brain connections in older children could be identified with a greater degree of accuracy, as compared to their younger counterparts. Precisely, fingerprinting accuracy was predominant during adolescence.
According to lead author Tobias Kaufmann, “Children and adolescents with initial symptoms of mental illness showed a developmental delay in the stabilization and individualization of their brain connections. Less distinct network patterns were associated with higher level of symptom burden.”
The brain is most vulnerable to environmental risk factors during childhood, when most mental disorders appear, said the researchers.
Lack of awareness regarding childhood mental illness
Even today, there is a lack of awareness regarding mental disorders in children and therefore, many children with learning disorders are considered as mentally ill by their parents and teachers. Learning disorders and mental illness are not the same, though there may be certain overlapping symptoms. Many health care professionals believe that lack of awareness regarding mental health conditions and the inability to raise the red flag in time could hamper a child’s mental growth.
“Should the parents, caregivers or teachers identify a need for an assessment, they may either visit their general practitioner, who will assess and then refer the adolescent or the child to either a psychologist or psychiatrist, depending on the assessment and the behavior they present with, or the adolescent may visit the psychologist or psychiatrist directly,” according to Charlene van Rooyen, social worker at life Poortview, a life health care facility in South Africa.
Access to early treatment is crucial
Childhood is one of the most fragile periods in an individual’s life. An event, a trauma or an abusive relationship can mar the child’s psychological development. Therefore, it is imperative that parents, teachers and counselors keep an open eye on apparent changes in a child’s behavior. Identifying the symptoms at the earliest and ensuring that timely interventions are at hand can prevent the problem from deteriorating further.
It is necessary to treat mental disorders timely as signs of certain disorder may remain hidden for a prolonged period. If you or your loved one is suffering from any mental health issue, contact the Florida Mental Health Helpline to know more about the rehab facilities in Florida. Call us at 24/7 helpline number 866-846-5588 or chat online with our experts to get more information on the treatments for various mental health disorders in Florida.