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Being aware of mental health issues

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Although most children cope with cancer treatment very well, for some, the physical and mental stress of the disease and its treatment may cause depression or anger. Signs of depression include:

  • feeling empty, worthless, unloved, or that life isn't worth living
  • feeling nervous, restless or irritable
  • changes in appetite
  • low energy
  • sleep problems
  • decreased interest in activities
  • increased crying.

The way children respond to their situation is different for each child, and depends on their age and developmental level. If your child has these symptoms, it is important to tell your doctor so that they can get appropriate help. Similarly, if you have these symptoms yourself, be sure to tell your partner or other supporters and to seek medical help.

The trauma of a life-threatening disease diagnosis for yourself or your loved ones can sometimes have a lasting effect on mental health. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after serious physical injury, or mental or emotional distress. Symptoms of PTSD include:

  • reliving the time of diagnosis and treatment in nightmares or flashbacks, and thinking about it all the time
  • avoiding places, events and people that remind you of the cancer experience
  • being constantly overexcited, fearful, irritable or unable to sleep, or having trouble concentrating.

If you, your child with cancer or your other children have these symptoms, it is important to talk about them and to seek help from a doctor.

published: Sunday, 23 August, 2015