Mental illness is many things. Like physical
illness, mental illness can affect anyone and has many forms. There is the part
of your child that thinks and understands. Let’s call this part your child’s
mind. There is the part that feels happy and sad, frightened and calm, angry
and joyful. Let’s call this part the emotions. Also there is the part that does
things and takes action based on what your youngster thinks and feels. Let’s call
this part behavior.
What then is a mental illness? Your child’s
mind, emotions, and behavior normally work together as a team. When children
become mentally ill, the three members of the team stop working together. They
each start functioning independent of each other and your child cannot get them
to start working together again.
Some kinds of mental illness affect the mind the
most. Your youngster is unable to think clearly and understand things the way
they really are. The world becomes a strange and confusing place for him. Other
kinds of mental illness affect emotions more and other kinds affect behavior
more; but all types of mental illness affect children’s mind, emotions, and
behavior to some extent and in some way. When this happens, the young person
finds it very hard to keep the three members of the team under control and
working together. Keep this problem of teamwork in mind as you think about
whether your child may be mentally ill.