Mental health is often described as how we feel and act — our behavior, mood, and attitude toward our lives and our surroundings. We often reveal our mental health through our ability to cope and respond to stress, how we relate to family and friends, and how we operate at home, work, or school.
In the case of the children and families whom Trillium serves, however, mental health refers to much more than a child having a bad day. When we talk about mental health and mental health care, it’s not much different than when we talk about physical health and our physical health care system. That’s because mental health and physical health are related.
Just as with physical health, there are factors that affect our mental health that are outside of our control. Brain chemistry, genetics, biology, and environmental factors all affect both physical and mental health. Just as a child can be prone to diabetes because of genetics, a boy or girl can be predisposed to a mental illness. Like physical health, mental health is not dependent on a family’s economic status, which is why we see families from all walks of life.
In some cases, mental illness, or a mental health condition, can be brought about by stress or other external factors such as neglect or abuse — just as physical health is affected by these same factors. Abuse, for example, can lead to physical or emotional injuries.
However, there is one important difference between mental health and physical health: a mental illness manifests itself through behavior and mood. Even today, mental illness is often looked upon as a character flaw rather than a treatable condition that can be effectively managed. But we do know that mental illness IS treatable, especially in children. The symptoms and severity of a mental health condition can range from mild to severe, just as can the symptoms for a child with diabetes. If caught early enough and addressed properly, a mental health condition, like diabetes, can be imperceptible to the outside world because it can be effectively managed.
If left untreated, however, the condition can become severe. A child’s and family’s life can become tumultuous, and families can later be torn asunder as they attempt to find appropriate help.
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