While some mental health behaviors begin to surface in early childhood, mental health symptoms become more visible during pre-teen and teen years.

Adolescence isn’t easy. As children move through stages of physical, emotional, hormonal, sexual, social, and intellectual development, 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.   



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

At School

  • Having a hard time paying attention, controlling impulsive behaviors (act without thinking)

  • Irritability and angry outbursts

  • Often arguing with adults or refusing to comply with adults’ rules or requests

  • Deliberately annoying and/or blaming others

  • Having to think, say or do something over and over

  • Lack of positive emotions, or intense ongoing fear or sadness

  • Being easily startled or avoiding places or people

  • Self-injury and/or self-destructive behavior (which can lead to suicidal thoughts or a suicidal attempt)

  • Substance abuse

At Home

  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritable a lot of the time

  • Not wanting to do or enjoy doing fun things

  • Changes in eating, sleeping, or energy patterns

  • Having a hard time controlling impulsive behaviors (act without thinking)

  • Feeling worthless, useless, or guilty

  • Often being angry or losing one’s temper, or being resentful or spiteful

  • Having unwanted thoughts, impulses, or images that repeat and cause anxiety and distress

  • Nightmares and sleep problems

  • Complaints of frequent headaches and stomachaches

  • Self-injury and/or self-destructive behavior (which can lead to suicidal thoughts or a suicidal attempt)

  • Substance abuse

How can I help my child now?

Early diagnosis and appropriate services for children and their families can make a difference in the lives of children with mental disorders.

Your children should know and feel that they can talk to you about anything and as a caregiver, you will need to make yourself available to broaching topics of concern openly. Share your own experiences and fears when you were teenager. Let them know that they are not alone.

  • Communication should be personalized to the age of the child.
  • Initiate conversations with your child.
  • Communicate your own values (clearly).
  • Talk about it again, and again, and again.
  • Make time to help.

Resource: Communicating with teens –

Be armed with information about  common mental health disorders among adolescents.

Resource: Common Mental Health Issues –

This is a time of transition and change, but severe, dramatic, or sudden changes in behavior can be a strong sign of a serious mental health issues.

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

  • Talk to your child’s doctor. Describe the behavior(s) that concerns you.

  • Talk to your child’s teacher, their close friends or loved ones, or other caregivers to see if they’ve noticed any changes in your child’s behavior.

  • Consider seeking family counseling or the help of support groups, too. It’s important to understand your child’s illness and feelings, as well understand what you can do to help your child.

  • Inform your child’s teachers and the school counselor that your child has a mental health condition. By doing so, you can work with the school staff, if necessary, to develop an academic plan to address and best meet your child’s needs.

  • Speak with your local health department, religious leaders, about resources they may have available to help your child.

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