Children with ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, are more likely than their peers to suffer from depression and other mental health problems. That is why the experts of the Child and the World Behind programme appeal not to underestimate this disorder.

As part of this campaign, the second series of training courses for educators and school psychologists from all over Poland entitled How to recognise and help a child with ADHD was launched in March. The lecturers there emphasise that children with ADHD are not simply naughty, but really have problems with impulse control, emotions and behaviour. This is because the part of the brain responsible for inhibiting unnecessary stimuli develops more slowly in them. Therefore, three types of symptoms are observed in them: impaired concentration, hyperactivity and excessive impulsivity.

This, in turn, leads to them doing less well at school, being rejected by their peers and disliked by adults. Children with ADHD see all this and cannot cope with these problems. This is where their low self-esteem, mood disorders and depression come from,” explained to PAP child psychiatrist Dr Artur Kołakowski, author of a workshop organised as part of the Child and the World Behind the Scenes campaign.

The problem is that depression in children often takes on different masks, so it is easy to overlook. Some children don’t want to do anything and sit in front of the computer all the time, and are therefore considered lazy. Others may be irritable, reacting to everything with anger. In children with ADHD, this can be interpreted as an increase in naughty behaviour. It is only when we start talking to the young patient that it becomes apparent that they are judging themselves badly, do not have the strength to get out of bed, think that life is not worth living and sometimes even have suicidal thoughts, explained Dr Kolakowski.

In children with ADHD, the complication of depression most often appears in adolescence, but unlike their peers, children with the disorder often do not grow out of their depression. A lack of motivation, a poor self-image and a lack of confidence in succeeding can accompany them throughout their lives.

This is why we are keen to diagnose ADHD as early as possible, as early as grades 1-3, when with the right therapy we can prevent these and other complications, said Kolakowski.

Patients with this disorder are also at greater risk of addictions at a later age, are more likely to finish their education at a level below their potential, have problems in close relationships, and have conflicts with the law.

As the psychiatrist pointed out, a very important role in the diagnosis of ADHD is played not only by parents, but also by teachers and school educators. If a child cannot concentrate on the activities he or she is doing, does not understand complex instructions, notoriously fails to write down his or her homework, reacts to every impulse, does not distinguish between the less important and the important, talks loudly and a lot, then one can start to become suspicious of ADHD, he explained. The teacher can then ask the educationalist or school psychologist to make a preliminary diagnosis of the child on the school premises and to talk to the parents to go to the educational and psychological counselling centre for a complete diagnosis and therapy. A consultation with a psychiatrist is also routinely used during the diagnosis of ADHD.

The cornerstone in the treatment of the disorder is psychotherapy for the child and his or her family, but in Poland the burden of funding this is mainly on the parents. A small percentage of children need pharmacotherapy.

It is estimated that about 5 per cent of children aged 7-13 suffer from ADHD, so a class of 25 pupils may have one child with the disorder. In Poland, only about 20 per cent of children with ADHD are treated.

In order to improve these statistics, it is necessary to educate the public and the teaching community. This is the task of the long-term educational programme The Child and the World as a Friend. Between September 2010 and the end of February 2011, 548 employees from 293 educational institutions took part in the programme’s workshops. (PAP)