In this four-part series, we are going to dive into the experience of a mental health diagnosis for children: how to know if a child should be tested, what to look for, what questions to ask, how to explain a diagnosis to the child, and more. Dr. Méroudjie Denis, a Licensed Psychologist and our Director of Clinical Program Innovation will break it down. 

In part one, we are looking at the stigma and fear that surround a mental health diagnosis.  

What stigmas do you think currently exist around getting a mental health diagnosis for a child?  

I think the biggest stigmas are that kids with mental health diagnoses… 

- Have something wrong with them 

- Are weird or different 

- Will require special education support 

- Will have these challenges forever 


And so, with those stigmas surrounding mental health, it’s not surprising that some of the biggest fears that parents and caretakers have in regards to getting a child tested and potentially diagnosed include: 

- How will this diagnosis affect my child for the rest of their life?  

- Will my child ever be able to… (be independent, hold down a job, be in a relationship, etc.) 

- Will they be treated differently at school? By their teachers? By their peers?  

- Will this struggle we are having right now be a struggle forever?  


Given these stigmas and fears, it is not surprising that many caregivers have anxiety about getting a diagnosis. What is your response to some of these fears?  

Most of these fears are based on what parents may have seen in the media, often portraying the most severe cases. It is so important for parents to understand that mental health exists on a continuum, so one diagnosis can have many different presentations. We have a saying amongst psychologists, “If you’ve met one child with autism… you’ve met one child with autism.” That is to say that every diagnosis is different. The way autism, depression, ADHD, anxiety, OCD, and any other diagnosis shows up in one child may be different from how it shows up in another child. Mental health is a spectrum. 

But it’s perfectly natural that many of us go straight to what we know – and often we don’t know about the different ways that a mental health diagnose can manifest. So, we can go to extremes in our brain pretty easily, thinking about stories we’ve heard, characters on TV, or other limited information. And this, of course, can be scary.  

In light of these stigmas and fears, what do you want caretakers to know and understand about getting a diagnosis?  

It’s important that parents and caregivers don’t let these interfere with their child getting tested for any mental health concerns. It is understandable that it can open up a lot of questions, but the process of testing and diagnosing any issues can also offer some answers and assurance. Most importantly, the sooner any mental health diagnoses are uncovered, the sooner interventions and support can begin. 


In part two, we will talk about the process of testing for mental health concerns.

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