In a study published in the Pediatrics Journal, researchers interviewed a sample size of students of 5,000 teenagers between the ages of 11 to 17. They were asked if they had ever thought of attempting suicide or if they had had a lot of conversations about death or dying.
The teens’ parents were also asked if they believed their children had had such thoughts before.
About half of the parents whose children have thought of such things were oblivious. This suggests a disconnection between parents and children which was not surprising.
Senior Lecturer, and a Social and Community Psychologist at the University of Ghana Psychology Department, Dr. Johnny Andoh-Arthur has revealed that the disconnection between parents and their children is a key risk for mental health challenges among children. According to him;
“Parents often find it challenging to identify their children’s mental health issues. There is a significant lack of awareness and knowledge about mental health among parents. This lack of understanding can hinder their ability to recognize signs and symptoms of mental illness in their children. It is also important to note that parents may not always be aware of their own mental health concerns, and this can impact their ability to identify similar issues in their children.”
Dr. Johnny Andoh added that cultural factors that silence children is another reason for neglect of their mental health.
“Cultural factors can come into play. In some cultures, there may be expectations or norms that discourage open discussions about mental health, which can further silence children and make it harder for parents to identify their struggles.“
Why do children stay quiet?
Most juveniles are not able to recognize the feelings and thoughts they experience. It makes it difficult for them to tell their parents. Some children also believe informing their parents about how they feel will be seen as worrying the parents while others think of how their parents may react.
More often than not, results in parents missing out on the signs of the depressive situation the child may be in or likely to be misinterpreted.
What are the possible causes?
Another survey conducted by the 2021 Youth Risk Behavioural Survey reported that 42% of high school students noted persistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness. 22%, according to the survey were classified as suicide, while 10% of the students attempted suicide.
Anxiety, stress, and isolation are some of the factors that accounted for this as well as unrealistic comparisons and unhealthy thoughts.
The 2021 Youth Risk Behavioural Survey noted that 16% of High school students faced cyberbullying.
These two reports depict how young ones suffer mental breakdowns but are not able to open up to their parents.
What are some of the signs parents should be on the lookout for?
- When your child begins to act sad or mood swings
- Oftenly getting irritated
- Complaining of fatigue, headache, stomachaches, etc.
- Socially withdrawn
- Change in eating habits
- Drop in academic performance
- Change in sleep patterns
How can parents help their children?
Dr. Johnny Andoh suggests parents should understand that their children have unique personalities that come with varying needs and challenges.
He also entreated parents to exercise patience and empathy towards their children, all whiles being present in their lives.
“As parents, they need to be more empathetic and present in the lives of their children. Parents should encourage their children even when they suffer setbacks in academics and other areas of their lives and should teach them how to cope with life adversities.”
“They should not compare their children with other people’s children or even among siblings. They should rather create a healthy climate in which every child has the opportunity to grow through opportunities and adversities.”
It is essential for parents to increase their understanding of mental health and seek help when in crisis. This will help them to understand their children in unique personalities with varying needs.
Article by: Frimpong Collins | univers.ug.edu.gh