Kids don’t want to be seen as “different”

shutterstock_81693892Following a brief interlude, we offer the sixth segment of our Winter 2014 blog series Including Kids and Teens With Mental Illness at Church, examining the challenge presented by the propensity of kids and teens to reject help that (in their minds) increases the risk they’ll be perceived differently by their peers.

Stigma is a very real concern for children and teens diagnosed with mental illness. Research demonstrates that kids between the ages of 8-18 are more likely to distance themselves socially from a peer with either depression or ADHD and perceive peers with those conditions as more likely to engage in antisocial or violent behavior. Kids are more likely to attribute depression or ADHD in peers to a lack of effort, poor parenting or substance use. We also know that kids who are perceived as different by their peers are more likely to be victims of bullying, especially kids with more subtle signs of disability.

In my practice, this concern often plays out when kids are in need of special education services or accommodations related to a learning disorder or mental health condition. It’s very common for kids who might benefit from small group instruction or testing accommodations to refuse potentially helpful supports because of their concern for the opinions of their peers.

What do we have to offer kids with significant mental health conditions and their families who could benefit from disability inclusion when they come to church? We have BUDDIES. We have stand-alone classrooms and programming for kids with significant developmental disabilities. We have Young Life Capernaum for teens and young adults with intellectual disabilities. I can’t think of many things that make a child with anxiety more uncomfortable than being singled out for special attention or treatment. Our standard disability ministry programming is likely to reinforce the propensity of kids with mental illness to self-stigmatize…if their families see any benefit from disability ministry programming in general.

The best possible solutions for including kids with mental illness at church would include those offering potential benefits to all children and families without drawing attention to any particular child, those that help kids to prepare privately for participation in church activities outside the scrutiny of peers and solutions that offer necessary supports without requiring children or families to self-identify in order to receive help.

Next: When kids have parents with mental illness

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Emotional girlConfused about all the changes in diagnostic terminology for kids with mental heath disorders? Key Ministry has a resource page summarizing our recent blog series examining the impact of the DSM-5 on kidsClick this link for summary articles describing the changes in diagnostic criteria for conditions common among children and teens, along with links to other helpful resources!

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
This entry was posted in Families, Hidden Disabilities, Inclusion, Key Ministry, Mental Health, Ministry Environments and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Kids don’t want to be seen as “different”

  1. Pingback: Lenten Pick up 1- Kids don’t want to be seen as different | Theological Curves

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