Healthy New Jersey

New Jersey Governor's Council on Mental Health Stigma

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Children and Youth

Although symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders may be similar between adults and youth, the symptoms may be exhibited in distinct ways by each age group. This resource page was created to provide information and resources specifically relating to children and adolescents.

Children Are So Often Misdiagnosed

This happens because so many parents are unclear about the symptoms of mental illness, especially when "normal" childhood behavior can sometimes mimic manifestations of adult psychopathology. Even when symptoms are evident, many parents slip into denial. Denial is common, steeped in the stigma surrounding mental illness and a result of the fear and shame born out of misconceptions. Today, parents are fiercely competitive and status conscious in regard to their children's development. As a result, they might turn a blind eye to mental health issues that could invoke discrimination and social rejection for their children, and they simply hope it will just go away.

Be an Advocate for your Child

If your child's whole development is important to you, then it is vital that you embrace mental health as part of the total picture. By educating yourself about mental illness, you can actively seek the proper treatment for your child. In doing so, you provide your child with the opportunity to live a full, happy, and productive life. Furthermore, just by sharing your experience with others, you can help fight the stigma that prevents so many parents from seeking treatment for their children.

The Teen Years Are Prime Time for the Onset of Mental Illness

However, it can be treated if the illness is properly diagnosed in a timely fashion. Once again, the challenge here is stigma. Teens face enormous pressure from parents, peers, and the world around them. This is a time of passage into adulthood, and the growing pains are very real. Because of stigma, a teenager admitting that he or she might have a mental illness can create a variety of unfavorable consequences, including social rejection, professional barriers, and a lack of understanding from family and friends.

Parents, Peers, and Teachers must Embrace Mental Health

It is vitally important to understand mental illness in order to support the health and wellbeing of young people who are their children, their friends, and their students. A community effort can be crucial during adolescence, a time when seeking and subsequently receiving treatment for mental illness can literally become a matter of life or death.

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