Is challenging behaviour a mental health issue? Of course it often is!
As a psychologist one of the issues that has concerns me most is that people too often make a bold distinction between young people who present with oppositional and challenging behaviour and young people who present with issues such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety and self-harm.
Challenging behaviour and anxiety and depression as examples can look very different. At first regard they demand different skill sets from adults. And if help is not forthcoming one group may end up as adults in psychiatric services whilst the other may end up in youth offending and criminal justice services.
But what are the connections? And what are the implications? What if these two growing social issues were much more closely connected and needed to be thought about as two sides of the same coin?
Challenging behaviour and mental health issues are profoundly interconnected and the reason lies in a much greater appreciation of child development and of what young people need from their relationships with adults, and why, in order to thrive.
Children with challenging behaviour often have difficulty being able to put their feelings and thoughts in words. They can be helped but without such help, we can be sure that they will struggle in relationships and this will become a mental health issue. Sometimes the most challenging behaviour is shown by children who have stopped being able to feel sensitive and vulnerable feelings. These are the children who seem to show little empathy or remorse and are the children who concern us most in terms of the dangers that they can present to others. They are children who have often been deeply wounded by their life experiences.
What is the solution? The solution to young people's challenging behaviour and mental health problems commonly lies in what adults need to be doing differently, and therefore I believe the solution also lies in more adults being willing to make time to stop and think and learn about what is happening at a deeper level.
The challenges can seem enormous and overwhelming. Where to start? There is not a quick fix solution. My observation however is that positive change can and does happen but when it does, it always starts with individuals who are willing to take responsibility for educating themselves.
If you are an adult who is willing to learn more about what is needed from you and other adults to help your child or a group of children in your setting - then why not talk with others and start a study group in your area? For more information about the I Matter Online Course click here. If you want to register with a group discount we run a course each term. Alternatively you can sign up for an Anytime Option.
Dr Cathy Betoin
Dr Cathy Betoin
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