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Children also deserve decent mental health care: Experts

Gisela Swaragita
Gisela Swaragita

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, July 24, 2020  /  03:24 pm
Children also deserve decent mental health care: Experts

Oftentimes, when children display emotional problems, parents only view their children as “difficult kids”, belittle their worries and invalidate their feelings. (Shutterstock/SewCream)

Mental health issues are often viewed as adult problems even though children are also vulnerable to such conditions.

To educate parents on the importance of mental health for children and teenagers, health app Halodoc and the Indonesian Clinical Psychologist Association (IPK Indonesia) have initiated an educational platform with 200 clinical psychologists that aims to provide an online consultation service.

“We believe that protecting children’s rights, including protecting their mental health, is key to success in creating high quality future generations,” Halodoc vice president marketing Felicia Kawilarang said during a webinar with a number of psychologists on Thursday, which coincided with National Children's Day.

“We believe that peace of mind is key to maintaining our physical health, which is more important now than ever, for both adults and children," Felicia added.

During the webinar, experts expressed their concerns that mental illness is often overshadowed by the importance of maintaining children’s physical health, although both are equally important.

Oftentimes, when children display emotional problems, parents only view their children as “difficult kids”, belittle their worries and invalidate their feelings. According to the panel, validating kids’ feelings is the first step toward good mental growth, and it is important for parents to understand that young people also deserve professional help when it comes to overcoming their anxieties growing up.

Read also: Educators confront mental health problems amid pandemic

“Mental health issues in children and teenagers can affect many aspects of their life including causing negative behavior, emotional and social disruption, growth and learning problems, health and eating disorders, as well as problems in their relation with parents,” children’s psychologist Annelia Sari Sani said in the webinar.

“Unlike other health problems, mental illness symptoms in kids are difficult to recognize. Therefore, it is important for parents to be more sensitive toward kids’ behavioral changes, and to minimize long-term risks that can occur when the child has grown to be an adult.”

According to Basic Health Research (Riskesdas) initiated by the Health Ministry in 2018, teenagers over 15 years old have a prevalence of mental emotional disruption of 9.8 percent, up from 6 percent in 2013. The World Health Organization also records that 15 percent of teenagers in developed countries have suicidal tendencies. Meanwhile, suicide is the third-biggest cause of death worldwide for people aged 15-19 years old.

Besides parents who are insensitive toward their children’s mental health, social stigma surrounding people with mental illness also deters them from seeking help.

“They are embarrassed to admit that they have symptoms of mental illness. They also don’t understand that they have alternative solutions,” said Asaelia Aleeza, cofounder of Ubah Stigma, a community whose mission is to increase awareness about mental health.

In this current COVID-19 pandemic, online psychological therapy can be a solution for those seeking professional help for their children’s mental health problems.

According to Halodoc internal data, the number of consultations with psychiatrists via the app increased constantly during the period between February and May. A significant hike was seen in April, when the figure increased to 80 percent compared with March. (kes)

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