Mental Wellness Checklist for Children

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Local Resources

United Parents: Parent mentors, local support groups and referrals, respite and parenting workshops - Call (805) 384-1555 or click here

Interface Children & Family Services: Call (805) 485-6114 or click here

Aspiranet: For families at risk of out-of-home placement; foster care and adoption services - Call (805) 289-0120 or click here

Kids & Families Together: For children and their families, including kinship and foster caregivers - Call (805) 643-1446 or click here

City Impact: Counseling services and early intervention and prevention programs. Call (805) 983-3636 or click here

Casa Pacifica: Services include residential for children and non-public special education and therapeutic preschool - Call (805) 445-7800 or click here

Helping your child succeed at school: Ventura County SELPA - Call (805) 437-1560 or click here

For assessment and referral: Call the VCBH STAR Team at (866) 998-2243.

There is a program in Ventura County to help identify and get help for psychosis early. If you or someone you care about shows possible signs of psychosis (and is between 16-25 years old), call (805) 642-7033 or click VIPS for more information. The VIPS program is offered by Ventura County Behavioral Health in partnership with Telecare Corporation.

How do you know if your child is mentally well? What is typical?

Every child is different. When children develop language, motor, and social skills varies from child to child.

Not every behavior problem is serious. In fact, many everyday stresses can cause changes in your child's behavior. For example, stress from a new baby in the family or a divorce may cause a child to temporarily act much younger than he or she is. Before assuming that there is a mental health problem, it can be worth trying changes to see if that makes a difference.

If you're concerned about your child's mental health, try these simple things first:

• Has your child had a full medical checkup recently? There may be a physical problem that needs attention.

• Try less TV

• More sleep

• Exercise every day

• Healthier food

• More calm and quiet

• Learn more about parenting tips and positive ways to manage your children's behavior

• Find out if there are problems at school or elsewhere that are causing stress, such as bullying.

• Adults' anger can influence children without your realizing.


Source: U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Resources, National Institute of Mental Health

STILL CONCERNED?

It's easy to know when your child has a fever. A child's mental health problem may be harder to identify, but you can learn to recognize the symptoms. Sudden changes in your child's behavior can tip you off to a problem.

SIGNS THAT YOUR CHILD MAY NEED HELP

YOUNGER CHILDREN:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Poor grades despite strong efforts
  • Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)
  • Sadness that doesn't go away
  • Hyperactivity
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression
  • Hurting or destroying things
  • Frequent temper tantrums

OLDER CHILDREN OR TEENS:

  • Substance abuse
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism
  • Intense fear of weight gain
  • Exercising too much
  • Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death
  • Frequent outbursts of anger that seems to come from nowhere
  • Explosive behavior

Can symptoms be caused by stressful events?
Yes, events like a death in the family, illness in a parent, the stress of family financial problems or divorce can affect every member of a family, even the youngest child. It's normal for stress to cause a child to be upset. Remember this if you see mental, emotional, or behavioral symptoms in your child. Take note if he or she gets better with time. If more than a month goes by, professional help may be needed.

Some common mental health problems in children are:

WHO TO DISCUSS YOUR CONCERNS WITH

You could discuss your concerns with:

  • People whose parenting you respect
  • Your child's teachers and school counselors
  • Your minister or rabbi
  • Your child's doctor or health care provider
  • A mental health professional

Ask questions and learn everything you can about the behavior or symptoms that worry you. Keep in mind that every child is different. Even normal development, such as when children develop language, motor, and social skills, varies from child to child. Ask if your child needs further evaluation by a specialist with experience in child behavioral problems. Specialists may include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, psychiatric nurses, and behavioral therapists. Educators may also help evaluate your child.

If you take your child to a specialist, ask, "Do you have experience treating the problems I see in my child?" Don't be afraid to interview more than one specialist to find the right fit. Continue to learn everything you can about the problem or diagnosis. The more you learn, the better you can make decisions that feel right for you, your child, and your family.

* Sources: Mental Health America; U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Resources, National Institute of Mental Health