Mental Health is a state of emotional and psychological well-being when an individual can use his or her thinking and emotional abilities to function in society and meet the ordinary demands of everyday life.  Helping your child take care of their mental health is as important as taking care of their physical health.

Mental health is an important part of overall health for children as well as adults. For many adults who have mental disorders, symptoms were present—but often not recognized or addressed—in childhood and adolescence. For a young person with symptoms of a mental disorder, the earlier treatment is started, the more effective it can be. Early treatment can help prevent more severe, lasting problems as a child grows up.


Resource: Child and Adolescent Mental Health –

What does this look like in my child? (Symptoms)

As children move through the various transitions such as physical, emotional, hormonal, sexual, social, intellectual; they encounter pressures and problems that can easily become overwhelming. For some adolescents, these and other pressures can lead to one or more of a variety of mental health disorders.  All of these are matters of concern, and some are life-threatening.

  • Have lost interest in things that they used to enjoy

  • Have low energy

  • Negative self-talk, odd suspicious behaviors or conversations

  • Sleep too much or too little, or seem sleepy throughout the day

  • Are spending more and more time alone, and avoid social activities with friends or family

  • Fear gaining weight, or diet or exercise excessively

  • Engage in self-harm behaviors (e.g., cutting or burning their skin)

  • Smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs

  • Engage in risky or destructive behavior alone or with friends

  • Have thoughts of suicide

  • Have periods of highly elevated energy and activity, and require much less sleep than usual

  • Say that they think someone is trying to control their mind or that they hear things that other people cannot hear.

How can I help my child now?

It may be difficult to tell if troubling behavior is just part of growing up for your child or a problem that should be discussed with a professional. If there are more than one behavioral signs and symptoms that last weeks or months, and if these issues interfere with the child’s daily life at home and/or at school or with friends, you should contact a mental health professional.

Mental illnesses can be treated. If you are a parent or caregiver, talk to your child, the school counselor, or your child’s health care provider. If you need help starting a conversation with your child  about mental health, visit If you are unsure where to go for help, ask your pediatrician or family doctor or visit NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.

It may be helpful for children and teens to save several emergency numbers to their cell phones. The ability to get immediate help for themselves or for a friend can make a difference.

  • The phone number for a trusted friend, adult, or relative
  • The non-emergency number for the local police department
  • The Crisis Text Line: 741741
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention LifeLine at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).


What can I do for my child in the long-run?

  • Preventing mental health issues requires investing in early intervention programs and services at the earliest signs of a problem. Studies show that many people who develop mental health disorders show symptoms by the age of 14. Waiting too long to take action to help a mental issue in your child can lead to crisis situations such as trouble with the law, dropping out of school, involvement with drugs, or suicide. Source:
  • Accurately identifying mental health issues may be difficult for some families. Mental health issues may exist for an extended period because the individual has not been assessment for treatment. Therefore, it is critical that parents or caregivers educator themselves on identifying potential mental health issues, and assist the child in seeking treatment. It often takes professional outside help to address mental health issues.
  • Follow Through/Be Supportive: Too often, those suffering with mental illnesses do not seek professional help because of the fear of being labeled as “crazy”. Negative stigma surrounding mental illness causes a significant barrier, preventing individuals from obtaining proper treatment for a mental illness. Families should talk openly about family mental health issues just as they talk about family health issues like diabetes or heart disease. The more everyone knows about family history, prevention and symptoms the better everyone can help each other.  Social stigma related to mental health leads the individual to feelings of shame and denial, which makes the problem worse.

What is stigma? Stigma can be defined as hurtful attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and even discrimination against people with substance misuse disorders or other mental health issues. For resources and educational information regarding “Stigma” and how it affects an individual’s chances for treatment and/or recovery can be found at StigmaFreeWV.


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