According to a new poll released by The World Health Organization, mental illnesses in children have reached an all-time high. Over 5% of the global child population have been diagnosed, or are showing signs of mental illness.
Why are mental illnesses in children at such an all-time high? Medical research has shown that an unproper diet combined with low self-esteem has a lot to do with the rise in these conditions.
“Children today, especially in the United States, are developing more mental illnesses. This has a lot to do with diet and lifestyle choices,” says Tessa-Prior Pullins, one of the lead dietitians for BistroMD. “Between 16-33% of children and adults are obese in this country, which has had a significant impact on the growth of mental illnesses in children.”
If you are a parent and don’t want your child to become one of these statistics, it’s important that you educate yourself on the signs, and be prepared to cope with the symptoms.
BistroMD’s expert dietitian, Tessa, is sharing some information with you about how to make sure your child stays healthy, and how you can cope with the symptoms of mental illness.
How Do I Know if My Child is Suffering from a Mental Illness?
“Mental illness is a broad term, but when it comes to overweight or obese children, most of them suffer from depression or high anxiety,” says Tessa. “Things like low self-esteem contribute to these conditions, as well as strong feelings of emotional distress.”
Often, children who are obese or overweight are often ridiculed by their peers, which makes these conditions worse. Self-image and body issues also contribute to the increase of mental illnesses in children, especially as a child enters their teenage years.
If you are worried about your child’s mental health, it’s important that you pay attention to the following warning signs and behaviors:
1. No Energy, No Interest
Your child frequently has reduced energy levels, and shows little to no interest in activities. They are also reluctant to interact with their peers on a social level, and are afraid of engaging in relationships.
2. Feelings of Sadness and Withdrawal
Most of the time, your child seems increasingly sad, lonely, angry, or withdrawn. This causes them to have little interaction with their peers, which often leads to the child having very few friends.
3. Your Child is Obsessed with Food
If your child is constantly worried about food, and is constantly snacking or eating, they are eating out of pure emotion. Often, emotional eating is caused by certain mental illnesses in children, including depression and anxiety.
4. Too Much, or Too Little Sleep
If your child is constantly sleeping, or constantly staying up until all hours of the night, then he/she may be suffering from a mental condition. This makes them reluctant to go to school, and makes them physically inactive.
How to Help In Your Child’s Time of Need
“Most parents don’t like to see their child unhappy, which can be difficult for a family to cope with,” says Tessa. “Mental illnesses in children like depression and anxiety can be treated simply by spending more time with your child to figure out the root of the problem.”
To help your child, you need to help them understand that being overweight is more than just an appearance issue.
“Most children see weight as an appearance issue more than anything else,” says Tessa. “The more upfront and honest you are with your child, the easier it will be to help them cope with their emotional stress over their weight.”
As a parent, it’s important that you emphasize that being overweight can undermine physical and mental health, and that it’s more than just an appearance issue.
“Open and honest discussion with your child is key to helping them cope with a mental illness,” says Tessa. “Don’t be afraid to talk to your child about why they overeat, and how they feel about themselves. This will help you identify feelings and behaviors that cause them to overeat, so you can start to implement coping strategies.”
If your child hasn’t been eating healthy, you, as a parent, should take responsibility for that. Eating healthy in your house should be a top priority.
“As a parent, set an example—bring your family together by eating healthy meals together, and by exercising together,” says Tessa. “Encourage your child to make smart choices, and help them understand the lifetime benefits of good health.”
For any family that has to cope with mental illnesses in children, it’s important that you never use food as a reward or punishment method.
“Don’t ever use food as a method to punish or reward your child,” says Tessa. “Instead, create a system that rewards weight loss goals and physical achievements. Reward your child with a brand new wardrobe, or a special family vacation. Make the rewards unique to their achievements; this way, they will constantly maintain motivation to stay healthy.”
Change Starts with You
“As a parent, the change will only happen if you initiate it,” says Tessa. “It’s important that you understand the principles behind eating healthy so you can encourage your child to do the same.”
BistroMD’s founding physician, Caroline J. Cederquist, M.D., wrote a book about coping with both the mental and physical effects of childhood obesity. As one of a few hundred physicians nationwide to be board-certified in the field of weight loss, Dr. Cederquist has been an advocate in the fight to prevent childhood obesity for many years.
“I worked with Dr. Cederquist for many years at her medical practice, and saw how passionate she was about educating parents and children about the negative effects of childhood obesity,” says Tessa. “As a parent herself, Dr. Cederquist wrote a book with helpful advice to get parents to take control over their child’s unhealthy eating habits. She also developed the BistroMD meal plan as a way to educate adults about the proper ways to eat so they could teach other adults and children how to do the same.”
To start living a healthier lifestyle, get your first week of diet home delivery, courtesy of BistroMD, by clicking here.