Children’s Mental Health

Tumbles, scrapes, ouches, owies and boo-boos: just another day in the life of a parent. But what about invisible pain? The kind of pain you can’t kiss and make better. Like the doctor you turn to for fevers and flus, there’s help out there for that kind of pain, too.

Children’s mental health problems are real, common and treatable. Although one in five children has a diagnosable mental health problem, nearly two-thirds of them get little or no help.

Untreated mental health problems can undermine a child’s ability to thrive at home, school and in the community. Without treatment, children with mental health issues are at increased risk for problems now and later in life, such as problems in school (including dropping out), getting involved with the criminal justice system, unemployment and suicide.

Parents and family members are usually the first to notice if a child has problems with emotions or behavior. Your observations, along with those of teachers and other caregivers, can help determine whether you need to seek help for your child.

While all children struggle from time to time and may have one of the following issues to some degree, the following signs may indicate the need for professional help when more than one is present, or if a single issue is persistent and/or interfering with school, friendships or home life:

  • Decline in school performance

  • Poor grades despite strong efforts

  • Constant worrying or anxiety

  • Repeated refusal to go to school or to take part in normal activities

  • Hyperactivity or fidgeting

  • Persistent nightmares

  • Persistent disobedience or aggression

  • Frequent temper tantrums

  • Depression, sadness or irritability

Although these may seem like individual issues, they could be an indication of something bigger, especially if they persist. Early identification, diagnosis and treatment can help children reach their full potential. If you suspect a problem or have questions, talk with your child’s pediatrician or contact a mental health professional. For more information, check out the Growing Up articles in the It’s Up to Us mental health bulletins below.

Growing Up: Is Your Teen Moody or Depressed?
Growing Up: Start the Talk about Underage Drinking
Growing Up: Helping Children Make Sense of a Parent’s Mental Illness
Growing Up: Turn Off the Screen and Turn On Wellbeing
Growing Up: Emotional Health for New Moms and Moms to Be
Growing Up: Youth Empowerment Programs

Learn more about good mental health for your child with these fact sheets provided by Mental Health America, and check out local and national resources.

Fact Sheet: What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health
Additional Fact Sheets