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Not Just A Phase: Five Early Warning Signs Of Children's Mental Illness

TORONTO, May 6, 2013 /CNW/ - Parents are prepared to deal with their kids' cuts and scrapes, but research shows they are largely unequipped to grapple with or even identify possible mental health issues in their children.

In recognition of Children's Mental Health Awareness Week ( May 5 to 11), the RBC Children's Mental Health Project is launching Know the Signs, a national campaign highlighting five early warning signs to help parents identify possible indicators of childhood mental illness:

  1. Mood changes/swings: Persistent sadness or withdrawal.
  2. Anxiety: Frequent, prolonged worrying.
  3. Sudden change in grades: Poor concentration can lead to anxiety about going to school or a change in classroom success.
  4. Heightened emotions: Exaggerated fear or anger for seemingly no reason.
  5. Behavioral changes or acting out: Out-of-character changes in behavior or personality.

Kaitlin Hrudey, daughter of Kelly Hrudey former NHL goaltender and hockey commentator, now 20, was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder eight years ago. Learning how to manage Kaitlin's illness took time, with many sleepless nights and struggles, but today, Kaitlin and Kelly are sharing their story for the first time to help raise awareness and reinforce the importance of early intervention.

"You know your children. Even if they aren't telling you something's wrong, as a parent, you instinctively know," said Kelly Hrudey. "We noticed changes in our daughter's behavior but chalked it up to a 'stage'. I wish I had known the warning signs to look for, so we could have recognized the problem earlier. This is why awareness and early detection are so important."

According to Kaitlin, it's essential that parents and children have an open dialogue: "When I was 12, I remember knowing something was wrong, but didn't know what it was, which really scared me. I knew the right thing to do was to tell my parents so we could get through this together."

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