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How to know if your child or teen is dealing with mental illness

Posted on May. 30, 2019 ( comments)

For Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to shine a light on the fact that children and adolescents face mental health challenges, too. We talked to Susie Surdez, a licensed mental health counselor associate and the program manager of inpatient psychiatry at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center.

What mental health conditions most commonly affect children and teens?

Depression, anxiety and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are significant diagnoses within this special population of individuals. In addition to those, it’s common to see psychosis, mania, behavioral disturbances and eating disorders. Adolescent patients can experience a range of conditions that overlap or manifest in ways that don’t always look like a direct correlation to mental health.

What are the major signs and symptoms your child may have depression or anxiety?

Children will withdraw from events and start to become socially isolated. This may manifest as failing grades, changes in sleep or eating habits and/or less participation in recreational activities. Things that were once enjoyed and provided motivation can fall to the wayside and no longer have a positive impact or role in their life.

What should I do if I think my child has depression or anxiety?

The best thing we can do is ask our children how they feel. Talk openly about depression or anxiety in a non-punitive and empathetic way. Let them know that if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you about their feelings, you’ll help them find resources to give them an environment that feels safe: school counselors, community resources, primary care providers and even crisis services.

What are some treatment options?

A great place to start is with your primary care provider — they can refer you to outpatient counseling services near you. Outpatient services provide consistent and reliable counseling and medication management. In case of an emergency or crisis, go to the nearest emergency department.

What can I do as a parent to help my child?

The most important support we can provide is to talk to your child about mental health to remove the stigma around it. Validate your child’s emotions and help them identify coping mechanisms to process those emotions in a safe and effective way.

What does MultiCare offer in terms of mental health services for children?

MultiCare provides a variety of services that cater to children and adolescents: outpatient counseling services, medication management and inpatient psychiatric services. MultiCare also has many community partnerships with organizations that provide a variety of mental health services: Sea Mar Community Health Centers, Greater Lakes Mental Health, Wellfound and Navos.

Crisis resources

MultiCare offers mental health services throughout Pierce and King counties.

Learn more about services offered by MultiCare Behavioral Health

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, there are both local and national resources available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week in a crisis:

Pierce County Mental Health Crisis Line: 800-576-7764

King County Mental Health Crisis Line: 866-427-4747

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255

LGBTQ-specific (TrevorLifeline): 866-488-7386

Crisis Text Line: 741741 (How it works)

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