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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Emotional Child
July 2001

Q. My stepson has recently being saying he doesn't like himself and he wants to kill himself. He is six years old! His mother suffers from depression and has had shock therapy. She was hospitalized for several months during his infancy. She has sole custody and lives in another city. He is also having some difficulty in school with concentration and focusing. He talks about violence a lot. He is hyperactive at home but withdraws in social setting especially school.

He often has emotional outbursts where he can't seem to control his emotions usually crying and repetitive whining. Last year he suffered from severe sleep terrors. Obviously we are concerned. Is his predisposition to mental illness showing itself? What does this sound like to you? How can we help him, and where can we find it. We live in Canada.

A. This sounds like it could be quite serious, though at times normal children will become upset and wish that they were dead. It appears as though he should be evaluated by a mental health professional or his primary care provider, especially given your concern and his family history.

I do not know the Canadian system well enough to give you any specific suggestions, though I am certain that your childıs family doctor will be able to give some assistance.

In general, most health care systems provide some psychological services, and often patients are frustrated by the limited scope of these services. Fortunately, when there is a serious condition most systems do respond appropriately.

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