Signs of mental health concerns
It is important to be aware of warning signs that your child may be struggling. You play a critical role in knowing when your child may be in need help.
- Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
- Seriously trying to harm or kill himself or herself, or making plans to do so
- Experiencing sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing
- Getting in many fights
- Showing out-of-control behavior that can hurt oneself or others
- Not eating
- Having intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
- Experiencing extreme difficulty controlling behavior, putting himself or herself in physical danger or causing problems in school
- Using drugs or alcohol repeatedly
- Having severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Showing drastic changes in behavior or personality
- Loss of interest in activities
Because children often can't understand difficult situations on their own, you should pay particular attention if they experience:
- Loss of a loved one
- Divorce or separation of their parents
- Any major transition—new home, new school, etc.
- Traumatic life experiences, like living through a natural disaster
- Teasing or bullying
- Difficulties in school or with classmates
How to talk to your child about Mental Health
Do you need help starting a conversation with your child about mental health? Try leading with these questions. Make sure you actively listen to your child's response.
- Can you tell me more about what is happening? How you are feeling?
- Have you had feelings like this in the past?
- Sometimes you need to talk to an adult about your feelings. I'm here to listen. How can I help you feel better?
- Do you feel like you want to talk to someone else about your problem?
- I'm worried about your safety. Can you tell me if you have thoughts about harming yourself or others?
When talking about mental health problems with your child you should:
- Communicate in a straightforward manner
- Speak at a level that is appropriate to a child or adolescent's age and development level (preschool children need fewer details than teenagers)
- Discuss the topic when your child feels safe and comfortable
- Watch for reactions during the discussion and slow down or back up if your child becomes confused or looks upset
- Listen openly and let your child tell you about his or her feelings and worries