Spotting signs of mental health issues

How to spot the signs your child may be struggling with their emotional or mental health.

If left unaddressed, mental health issues can escalate within children and young people. It is easy for parents to miss warning signs during normal busy times but during the lockdown many parents (though not all) have more time at home to spot any change in their childrens’ behaviour, which may indicate they are struggling, for example:

  • becoming withdrawn
  • isolating themselves from friends and family
  • mood changes
  • school attendance or grades dropping
  • loss of interest in hobbies or activities that they used to enjoy
  • more time spent texting or online, (gaming, websites)
  • secrecy around online habits
  • loss of appetite/weight, increased appetite/weight gain
  • change in sleep patterns
  • risk taking behaviour (eg insisting on going out with their friends during the lockdown, staying out late, not saying where they’re going or who they’re with, use of alcohol or drugs, sexual behaviour, new inappropriate friendships).

Also any change in behaviour that becomes more aggressive (physically or verbally), or any involvement in anti-social behaviour and/or crime could be an indicator of problems. Behaviours such as change in language, for example adopting racist or extremist language, or having new possessions or clothing that they can’t account for, or having/being short of money.

What Now?

We would always advise trying to keep lines of communication open between parent and child. Parents can try to find times to be available for the child to talk to them when they are ready, to try to see things from the child’s point of view, and discuss with the child what help they would like.

Try to be supportive, and non-judgemental if the child ‘owns up’ to something you as a parent do not approve of.  Do positive things and have fun together.

Schools can work with parents to help support children in class and non-teaching times too. If the child wants someone impartial to talk to, schools often have counsellors in place. GPs may be able to refer to or recommend local counselling services.

Parents can access counselling through Fegans or other counselling agencies in their area. All our counsellors are fully qualified so have had training and experience of working with emotional difficulties and mental health issues. 

Self-help resources:

In The US:

Childhelp Toll Free 1-800-4-A-CHILD, or 1-800-422-4453

Samaritans Toll Free 116 123 

In The UK:
  • Childline 0800 1111  www.childline.org.uk
  • NSPCC website www.nspcc.org.uk
  • Samaritans 116 123

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