Warning Signs Your Child May Be Struggling With Their Mental Health
It can be difficult to know whether a young person is going through the normal trials and tribulations of growing up or if they’re struggling with more serious mental health issues.
A mental health issue can be temporary or long-term. It is characterised by changes in a person’s thinking, feeling, or behaviour which can cause distress or impact their daily life by reducing their ability to cope or function.
Common mental health issues are acute stress, anxiety, or depression, which are on the rise in young people, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Children’s Society, 1 in 6 children aged 5-16 are likely to have be experiencing a mental health issue, and in the last five years, the likelihood of a young person experiencing a mental health issue has increased by 50%.
Every child will experience stress, anxiety, or sadness at some point in their life, but they can also be signs of deeper issues if they are especially intense, or persist for a long period of time.
Mental Health Warning Signs in Children
If your child is acting quieter than usual, or spending more time alone, it might be a sign they’re experiencing low mood.
While children may go through quiet phases, or just be introverted in general, going long periods without speaking to anyone may be an indicator of a mental health issue.
Angry outbursts or extreme behaviour
If your child is misbehaving at home or at school, it might be because of a build-up of stress.
They may be exhibiting erratic or unpredictable moods, similar to mood swings. This may just be an adjustment period, or it could be a sign of something deeper.
If their schoolwork or home life is drastically impacted
As mentioned, normal parts of childhood and adolescence like stress or anxiety don’t necessarily indicate poor mental health. But if your child’s quality of life is noticeably deteriorating, if they’re missing school, not sleeping, or arguing all the time, it might be time to explore additional support.
What To Do If You’re Worried About Your Child’s Mental Health
If you’re worried about your child’s mental health, there are ways you can help.
Try to have a conversation about mental health
All the points I mentioned above can be normal parts of a child growing up and testing the boundaries of how they can behave.
The easiest way to find out if they’re more serious signs of a mental health issue is to talk to your child about what they’re experiencing.
The key here is to open a dialogue. Don’t demand answers or judge your child for what they say. Ask how they are doing, and if anything is troubling or scaring them. Listen, empathise with them, let them know you’re there to help, and ask how they’d like to move forward.
Speak to your GP, or a mental health professional
If your child tells you they’re dealing with a mental health issue, or they’re struggling to cope, speak to your GP. They may in turn recommend a mental health professional.
A diagnosis of a condition might make things easier to understand, or you could be referred to a specialist or support group.
It’s important to remember that mental health issues are common and treatable. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the sooner the right support can be found.
We have mental health support resources for children, parents, carers, and education staff on our website. We also have more tips for helping young people with their mental health on our blog.