My sister, Katie, told me yesterday that she believes her thirteen year-old son, Dante, is having some mental health issues. Specifically, she said, he’s been getting unnecessarily worked up about his schoolwork, to the point that he’s exhibiting symptoms of extreme stress like insomnia and anxiety attacks. It appears that he’s developed something of an obsession with getting a scholarship at a top university. Given that he’s in year 7, this seems like a somewhat unreasonable thing to be focusing on.

Anyway, Katie was able to get a referral to a psychologist through the family GP, who agreed that the situation doesn’t seem too healthy. Katie had held back from mentioning it for a couple of months due to a concern that Dante might simply be prescribed drugs. Fortunately, on the Mornington Peninsula, psychology services for kids and teenagers are readily available in clinical settings that aren’t necessarily primarily medical in their orientation – from the sounds of it, Dante will most likely be receiving counselling.

From what Katie has said, it sounds like this issues has only been around for a couple of months (since Dante finished year 6 at the end of last year), so it seems to me like there’s scope to nip it in the bud before it transitions into other health problems – of course, I’m not a mental health professional myself, so I can’t back this up, but Katie seems positive.

I remember my pedicurist telling me that her sixteen year-old daughter had been seeing a psychiatrist to follow up symptoms of depression after she’d been in hospital for several months with a serious physical illness. I don’t know exactly what the difference is between psychology and psychiatry, but I assume that in Mornington, psychiatry and mental health counselling, psychology and maybe even dietetics and things like that might all appear together in the same clinic.

I’m sure that, with a bit of support, Dante will be fine – he’s always been a fairly serious kid who’s a bit prone to excessive stress and worry, but he’s also extremely intelligent, creative and self-reflective.