Mental illness is many things. Like physical illness, mental illness can affect anyone and has many forms. There is the part of your child that thinks and understands. Let's call this part your child's mind. There is the part that feels happy and sad, frightened and calm, angry and joyful. Let's call this part the emotions. Also there is the part that does things and takes action based on what your youngster thinks and feels. Let's call this part behavior.
What then is a mental illness? Your child's mind, emotions, and behavior normally work together as a team. When children become mentally ill, the three members of the team stop working together. They each start functioning independent of each other and your child cannot get them to start working together again.
Some kinds of mental illness affect the mind the most. Your youngster is unable to think clearly and understand things the way they really are. The world becomes a strange and confusing place for him. Other kinds of mental illness affect emotions more and other kinds affect behavior more; but all types of mental illness affect children's mind, emotions, and behavior to some extent and in some way. When this happens, the young person finds it very hard to keep the three members of the team under control and working together. Keep this problem of teamwork in mind as you think about whether your child may be mentally ill.