It’s important to be aware of warning signs that your child may be struggling with mental health issues. Children or adolescents often cannot understand difficult situations on their own. Parents need to pay particular attention to their child experiencing the following:

  • 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

Early Warning Signs of a Mental Illness

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters; feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Having unexplained aches and pains; frequent physical complaints
  • Showing drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits
  • Marked changes in eating habits
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Inability to cope with problems and daily activities
  • Having strong worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities like going to school, going to sleep, or socializing
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Experiencing a sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart, physical discomfort or fast breathing
  • Persistent nightmares
  • Marked decline in school performance; poor grades in school despite trying very hard
  • Hyperactivity; fidgeting; constant movement with or without difficulty paying attention
  • Extreme difficulties in concentrating that get in the way at school or at home
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Severe out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors that can cause harm to self or others
  • Threatens to harm or kill oneself or making plans to do so
  • Self-injury or self-destructive behavior
  • Getting in many fights or wanting to hurt others
  • Frequent outbursts of anger; unexplainable temper tantrums
  • Persistent disobedience or aggression (longer than 6 months) and provocative opposition to authority figures
  • Repeated threats to run away
  • Repeatedly smoking, drinking, using drugs; or sexual acting out

(Sources: MentalHealth.gov; NAMI.org)