One (1) in six (6) school-aged children experiences difficulties in daily life due to a mental health matter. It can get more severe as kids grow older.
Half of all mental illnesses emerge during or before the teenage years. Yet, fewer than half of these youth receive adequate treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic and other social issues have affected school-aged children more than ever.
Signs of Mental Health Issues in Children
- Withdrawing from others
- Having very low energy
- Appearing disheveled
- Losing interest in favorite activities
- Trouble concentrating
- Becoming easily irritated or angered
- Changing eating habits
- Changing sleeping patterns
- Crying a lot
- Giving away personal possessions
- Talking about being a burden
- Stealing money from family
- Changes in friends; a relationship breaks off
Impact of Mental Health Issues on Children
Kids with a mental health issue may have:
- Trouble making and keeping friendships
- Trouble completing homework
- Slowed problem solving
- Absence from school
- Lower grades; not graduating or attaining GED
- Difficulty following school routines and norms
- Feelings of isolation or they get bullied
- Thoughts about attempting suicide
What Parents Can Do to Help
- Keep the line of communication open. Ask your child how they’re doing and what’s happening in their world. This can be as simple as “Are you OK?” while riding in the car.
- Listen intently and without judgment. Validate — rather than minimize — their frustrations, fears and feelings.
- Follow their cues. Keep the conversation flowing by saying things like, “Tell me more about that. I would love to understand more about what that’s like for you.”
- If your child is talking about distress, do not be afraid to ask how much it changes their mood or stress level. Respond to changes in mood or distress with something like, “That must be hard. I’m sorry you're dealing with that. What can I do to support you?” If your child says they wish they were dead, take it seriously. Asking your child directly if they are having thoughts about suicide won’t plant the idea or increase the risk that they will attempt suicide.
- Seek help right away for a mental health crisis or suicide risk. Call the Crisis and Suicide Lifeline at 988. A trained adult will listen and offer guidance on getting help.