Q: In your book you mention the early signs of mental illness that you missed in your son Alex. Even as a baby, you write that he seemed different. What signs can parents watch for?
A: Some of the early signs resemble those linked to autism, for which parents are already told to monitor their toddlers and preschool children. Newer research is now establishing the existence of signals that can indicate a higher risk for schizophrenia — particularly if the child also has a family history of a psychotic illness such as schizophrenia and some types of bipolar disorder or suicide.
Some developmental signs include sitting, walking and talking later. The child may also have a preference for solitary play at 4 — usually a very sociable age — something that was very true of Alex.
In an older child, social withdrawal, anxiety, antisocial behavior and acts of self-harm are also associated with a higher risk.
There are also risk factors for schizophrenia in genetically vulnerable children over which parents can have at least some control, such as maternal malnutrition and depression; bullying and child maltreatment; and cannabis smoking by adolescents. No one or two of these signs should be seen as red flags. Only in combination do they merit parental concern.
READ the full interview on Psych Central: