Mental health problems among children present a health challenge for all societies, which are aggravated by a lack of knowledge about them among parents.
A study was carried out by doctors to find out the perception of child mental health problems among parents — and also their help-seeking behaviour— in an urban slum of Mumbai. A random sample of 257 respondents were interviewed for presence of mental health disorders. Parents of 38 children diagnosed with mental health disorders too were interviewed.
The study — titled “Study of perception and help-seeking behaviour among parents for their children with psychiatric disorder: a community-based, cross-sectional study” published in the The Journal of Medical Research — says 47.4 per cent of the parents perceived their children to be suffering from some psychiatric disorder. But only 10.5 per cent sought treatment voluntarily before the interview.
The major reasons for not seeking treatment were lack of awareness, no felt need and stigma attached to mental health. Additional barriers in the way of parents seeking professional help were worries about adolescents being diagnosed as having a mental health disorder, beliefs that adolescent problems could be resolved without seeking psychiatric help and lack of awareness about such treatment.
Perception of mental health problems — and seeking help — was higher among parents having a male child and among mothers with higher education. This is due to negligent behaviour of parents towards the girl child’s health problems, which is usually found in India especially in the lower socio-economic class, the study says.
Better perception of child mental health problems was also seen in families where fathers were employed and mothers were housewives. “Overall, the study found that parents’ perception and thereby help-seeking behaviour for child mental health problems is very limited especially if factors like female child, a large family size, low educational status of parents, unemployment and stressful environment is present in the family,” the report says.