Being diagnosed with a long term illness is a frightening experience. Having been diagnosed with an illness usually puts children under a lot of physical and mental stress with multiple hospital visits, extended hospital stays and medical treatments. Children and young adults are yet to fully develop their emotional and verbal capacities and often have a very limited vocabulary to express their emotions like fear and confusion.
A child's emotional wellbeing is just as important as their physical health. When a child is mentally strong, it helps them develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them, in this instance a long term illness. Events such as these that are traumatic trigger mental health problems for children and young adults who are already in a very vulnerable state.
What mental health problems occur in children diagnosed with a long-term illness?
Depression affects more children and young people today than in the last few decades.
Self-harm, some people find it helps create a physical release of intense emotional pain if they harm themselves physically.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) can cause young people and children to become intensely worried. Children may display a form of separation anxiety.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can follow after experiencing something extremely frightening or traumatising like surgery or treatments such as chemotherapy.
How can Play Therapy help children diagnosed with a long-term illness?
Treatment for children and young people often involves talking through the problem in order to work out the best way to tackle it, however, they don't always work for all children or young people. Play Therapy is often offered to children or young people in these situations, "play" is a less intimidating form of therapy and allows children and young people to work through their emotions such as anger and grief in a safe and judgement free space.
Evidence suggests that Play Therapy helps to reduce levels of depression and anxiety for children diagnosed with a long term illness such as Cancer. Children who participated in Play Therapy session were better able to express their underlying feelings and developed closer relationships with their caregivers. This improved their overall well being and daily quality of life. It also helped improve their ability to communicate. Allowing the body and mind to relax and heal where possible.