As someone who has experienced therapy in adult life, it has been a relief to know that the endorsement of dealing with mental health difficulties in early childhood is now so readily recommended.
The Royal Family still have the strongest influence in our Society today, certainly in the UK, and similar to her own spiritual mentor and mother-in-law Princess Diana, Kate Middleton has chosen a ground breaking subject, Mental Health Issues in Children as her global debut.
For anyone who has experienced therapy or dealing with mental health issues in adulthood – you will know the pitfalls of addressing issues so late in life. It is known that if mental demons are not dealt with in childhood, they are put ‘on ice’ and left to manifest and grow bigger in later life. This is why it is imperative to tackle them at an early age.
As we deal with our own demons in life as grown ups, and they can present themselves in many ways. Perhaps as a self image issue or as bulimia itself. We blame the airbrushed photographs of models wearing size zero frocks, and of course this is a source, but it goes a lot deeper than that.
As National Eating Disorder Awareness week is coming up, I will give you an example. I have heard recently of a girl as young as ten who suffered from bulimia as she hated the way she looked. A beautiful young girl whose mental health was in question, but remained undetected by the parents for quite a while, who in this case were both loving and intelligent. It was her cry for help, but as soon as they had cottoned onto the fact that their daughter was in trouble, they then took action and dealt with it immediately.
Now, several years later, she is a stable healthy young woman who assists other kids and teenagers with similar issues. Her symptoms were recognised and dealt with early on, and the source identified. In her case it was bullying at school, having moved to a new area, but there are many other manifestations of mental problems in kids, and now it is something we will no longer sweep under the carpet.
The key to it is not to ignore any change in the behaviour of your little ones, and then be aware of any changes in your own family or home. A divorce, house move or change in circumstance can trigger a mental health issue, but that is not to say that you should or could avoid any of these life changing events.
On the contrary, it can be more damaging if you remain in an abusive relationship or are frustrated in your career, and are afraid to move because of affecting your kids education or surroundings. If you include your kids in your plans, they will feel part of the change and adapt more quickly. If you are honest with them, however difficult that is, and some parents hide the truth as protection for their offspring. But kids are canny and pick up on everything around them, make them feel part of what you are doing, and they will feel nurtured and valued.
Eliminate any elements of guilt from your own agenda. Just do the best you can to ensure the strength of your environment, and be as honest as you can with yourself and your kids, however painful.
I am not saying it is that simple, and many mental health issues in children stem from a host of unexplained origins, some of them biological. None of us are experts on the subject, not even the most revered mental health specialist knows all the answers.
All that we do know is – the earlier we tackle mental health issues in our children, the more chance they will have in recognising and dealing with problems in later life.