A Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Oluwayemi Ogun, says children can develop the same mental health conditions as adults but, their symptoms may be different.
Ogun, the immediate past Medical Director of the Federal Neuro-psychiatric Hospital Yaba, made the assertion at the Vanguard 2nd Mental Health Summit in Lagos.
She said that mental health disorders in children were generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviours, social skills or regulation of emotions.
According to her, these problems are distressing to children and can disrupt their ability to function well at home, in school or in other social situations.
She explained that 50 per cent of mental health problems become established by the age of 14 and 75 per cent by age 24.
She said that the causes of mental health and developmental disorder in children could be linked to inadequate parenting, bullying, physical illness, drug misuse, inadequate spacing of children and unwanted pregnancy among other factors.
The psychiatrist listed genetic background, exposure to trauma, violence, alcohol use and depression as some of the warning signs that might trigger the development of mental health conditions in children.
According to her, some of the protective factors to children mental health conditions include parents/caregivers, safe school environment and discipline, saying that parents should adequately care and monitor their children closely to identify when there are changes in their behaviours.
“A child is a human being below the age of 18 years. Mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and are able to function at home, in school and other community functions.
“Because no one is immune to mental health conditions, children too can develop the same mental health conditions as adults but, their symptoms maybe different.
“Being mentally healthy during childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones, learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems.
“Therefore, parents and caregivers as protective factors should enroll in parent training programmes that can help them to learn more about the warning signs and symptoms of mental health conditions for better management/care.
“They can also explore stress management techniques in order to help the children respond calmly,” Ogun said.
The psychiatrist, therefore, emphasised the need for early intervention for the children with childhood mental health disorder.
She added that advocacy, financing and collaboration across sectors, implementation of legislation and human rights as well as improved access to and use of psychotropic medicines were approaches that could be taken to prevent mental health disorder in children.