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May 09, 2018

Mental Health News May 2018: Children at Risk!

Written by Dr. Caroline Leaf

Childhood can be challenging, especially in today’s highly demanding world. From early on, many children are trained to enter the rat race, compelled to live up to certain ideals of success, beauty and productivity. It is unsurprising that these ideals, often solely focused on what New York Times Columnist David Brooks calls the “resume virtues,” extract a high price—more and more young people are suffering from panic attacks, anxiety and depression, and more and more children feel that suicide is their only way out. 

In a recent article on BBC News, reporter Chi Chi Izundu describes increasing levels of Xanax abuse amongst children as young as 11, while more youth are being prescribed antidepressants with multiple, and potentially long-lasting, side-effects. And, while psychiatric drug usage among young people is decreasing in Denmark, other countries, such as Sweden and Norway, have seen an alarming increase in psychiatric diagnoses and prescriptions. Even in the womb children are not safe: many antidepressants given to pregnant women impact the long-term health of the fetus.

Are medications our only answer when it comes to the mental wellbeing of our children? As mental health advocate and journalist Rob Wipond points out, there are many great alternative to psychotropic drugs. Integrated play groups can help autistic children learn to relate to their peers, for example, while exercise and diet changes can help young people diagnosed with ADHD and other “conditions” learn to cope and concentrate with the pressures of school (to hear my view on ADHD, listen to episodes 12, 13, 14 and 16 of my podcast).

Not only should we look for alternative ways of treating depression and anxiety in young people, but also alternative ways of teaching them about happiness and success, and what constitutes the “good life.” As I discuss in my new book, Think, Learn, Succeed:Understanding and Using Your Mind to Thrive at School, the Workplace, and Life, which will be released on the 7thof August year, and will talk about in detail at my conference this December, success is not about the size of your paycheck, your car or your Instagram profile. Success and the good life is about living up to your full potential, being the best you only you can be, and being content with your life through the ups and downs. It is about learning to harness the incredible power that is in your mind to change your life—it is about living not just for your resume, but for something that gets you out of bed every morning, something unique that gives you purpose and shapes your identity. 

Indeed, when we teach children how amazing they are, and how they are equipped to succeed in life, we give them a purpose in life—we give them the power to take control of their destiny and transform their world for the better. In light of the fact that between the ages of 12-18 is considered to be the most stressful time period in the entire human life cycle, we cannot afford not to help our children grow into the best versions of themselves. 

 How can you help the young people in your life?

  • Create loving, supportive non-judgemental safe environments where children can express their emotions. 
  • Help them discover their identity, which prevents a disconnect between who they are and who they think parents and teachers want them to be through rigid and unexplored expectations. I would recommend you us the profile in my book The Perfect Youat www.drleaf.com and another profile in my online program www.perfectlyyou.com to do this. Watch the videos on the online together and stop and discuss them. 
  • Teach children how to use their mind to build their brain, which will help them develop healthy brain function and intellectual and emotional growth, and help them succeed at school and in life. See my workbook and DVD series Switch on Your Brain with the 5-step learning process®at www.drleaf.com  for more information. If they are under 12, you can watch the videos and simplify for your children. If they are older than 12, you can work through the videos together. 
  • Teach children how to use their minds to control anxiety, toxic stress, toxic thoughts, deal with bullying and so on. I recommend my book Switch on Your Brain www.drleaf.com and my www.21daybraindetox.com online program to do this. If your child is younger than 15, you can work through the book, simplify the summaries at the end and have a family sharing time where you learn the concepts together. I did this successfully in my clinical practice for over 25 years. If your child is 15 or older, let them work more independently using the online version, but help them daily for the first 21 days. Use the time as an opportunity to help your child to process what’s going on in his or her life. You know your child, so in a loving and non-judgemental way let them talk! Listen and give advice when asked. Watch what happens…you will be amazed!

For more information, listen to episode #31 of my podcast series where I discuss children, their hormones, stress, puberty and more with Dr. Irinel Stanciu, an endocrinologist and member of my Integrated Mind Network

 

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