HELPING CHILDREN WITH THEIR MENTAL HEALTH

Act early

It’s never too early to talk to your child about mental health concerns. Knowing the signs will help both of you manage what comes next — and stay healthy.

Know the signs

Children of all ages can experience mental health conditions. On average, anxiety disorders begin at age 6, behavior disorders at 11, and mood disorders like depression at 13. But these conditions are treatable, and may even be preventable with early care and support from parents and adults.

The median age of onset for common disorders in children The median age of onset for common disorders in children

First, know the signs. It may not be obvious that your child is struggling, so learn the symptoms of mental health conditions so you can act early. From there, be prepared to:

  • Learn where to go for help. Research all the mental health coverage, tools, and resources available through your health care provider and employer. Other public resources include online assessments and mobile apps for a range of mental health conditions. And there are many crisis lines that provide immediate access to trained professionals and peers by phone.

  • Take them seriously. If you notice a problem or your child comes to you with concerns, listen carefully. Get more information about their symptoms and how they’re feeling. If you think they might be considering hurting themselves, don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” Asking the question will not put the idea in their head — it may save their life.

Mental health conditions are medical conditions. If your child is experiencing an emergency, do not try to handle it alone. Go to your nearest emergency department or call 911.

Know when to get help

If your child is showing any signs or mental distress, contact a care provider. Your child’s primary care physician can help with assessments and screenings.

Mental health care includes a range of services, and your health care provider will work with you to determine the appropriate treatment based on your child’s needs.

SOURCES

*Kathleen R. Merikangas, PhD, et al., “Lifetime Prevalence of Mental Disorders in US Adolescents: Results from the National Comorbidity Study-Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A),” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, October 2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2946114.