TORONTO, October 3, 2011 More than half of Canadian parents (57 per cent) are concerned about the mental health of their children and most will simply monitor behaviours that can actually be early indicators of problems, rather than seek advice or treatment, according to a new RBC-Todays Parent survey of more than 2,500 Canadian parents on childrens mental health.
The survey also showed a lack of awareness about childrens mental health overall. More than two-thirds of parents (68 per cent) thought that attention deficit disorder is the most common childrens mental health issue. In fact, anxiety is the most common mental health problem facing children and youth in Canada, followed by conduct disorders and attention deficit disorders.
Most mental health problems start in childhood or adolescence, and the good news is that many children improve with early intervention and treatment, allowing them to get back to their regular activities and lead healthy lives, said Dr. David Wolfe, psychologist and RBC chair in Childrens Mental Health at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Its absolutely crucial for parents, doctors and teachers to have a basic level of mental health IQ so they can recognize the warning signs if a child is struggling at an early age.
Its possible that many parents dont know what warning signs to look for, which means their children could be suffering in silence without much-needed treatment, added Jamie Anderson, deputy chair of RBC Capital Markets and executive champion of the RBC Childrens Mental Health Project. Through the RBC Childrens Mental Health Project, we want to help more parents become familiar with the early signs of mental health issues so we can collectively break down the barriers to early intervention and facilitate more effective and timely diagnosis and treatment.
A change in a childs behaviour can be an early warning sign of a mental health problem. Depending on the behaviour, approximately 17 to 27 per cent of parents would seek professional help immediately for their child, and a similar proportion would try to manage these situations on their own.
Parents identified the following as their top warning signs for which they would seek professional help:
When asked with whom they would discuss their childs mental health situation, 85 per cent of parents would opt for their family doctor and 53 per cent would talk to a family member. In addition, more than three-quarters of respondents (77 per cent) would turn to the internet for information, but did not necessarily trust what they read (only 11 per cent ranked the internet as the most trusted source). Alternately, parents considered doctors (78 per cent) and health-related organizations (61 per cent) to be among their top two most-trusted sources of information.
Compounding the problem for those parents that do act on their suspicions of childrens mental illness is the lengthy wait time for a formal diagnosis and treatment. Of parents surveyed with a child who was diagnosed with a mental illness, it took an average of two years from the first warning signs until their child was officially diagnosed. For 22 per cent of parents, it took more than three years.
Stigma still a barrier
One significant barrier to early intervention, diagnosis and treatment is stigma. While many parents believe that mental illness in children can be treated, there is widespread concern about stigmatization due to mental illness. Respondents believed that other parents (80 per cent) and children (86 per cent) stigmatize children with mental health conditions.
Nearly seven-in-ten (69 per cent) prefer to obtain information on childrens mental health anonymously so their child would not be labeled or stigmatized, even though 79 per cent of parents feel that mental illness is a disease like any other. When asked how they would respond if their child was diagnosed with a mental illness:
While many parents in the study expressed progressive views on mental health, they did not trust other people to think the same way. Parents want to protect their child from the judgments and prejudices of others, said Anderson. Sometimes overcoming stigma can be as big a challenge as getting a diagnosis. This fear may prevent parents from seeking help and could delay or hinder necessary treatment for their child.
Other key highlights from survey include:
These findings are part of an online survey of 2,556 parents conducted by the Rogers Connect Marketing Research Group and commissioned by the RBC Childrens Mental Health Project and Todays Parent Magazine from July 11 to August 11, 2011. The results reflect the opinions of Canadian parents with children aged 18 and younger. The margin of error for the full data set —which measures sampling variability — is ±1.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.
About the RBC Childrens Mental Health Project
The RBC Childrens Mental Health Project is a multi-year philanthropic commitment to support community-based and hospital programs that reduce stigma, provide early intervention and increase public awareness about childrens mental health issues. Since 2009, the RBC Childrens Mental Health Project has donated more than $6.5 million to more than 125 organizations across Canada. Grant applications are accepted year-round from eligible organizations. For more information, visit www.rbc.com/childrensmentalhealth.
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For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Wasley, Weber Shandwick for RBC Childrens Mental Health Project, (416) 642-7903 or firstname.lastname@example.org
To request a copy of the results of the survey, please send an email to email@example.com, with 'Request copy of 2011 Children's Mental Health survey' as the subject.