Having a child with a mental health condition can be frightening. As a parent, you may feel as though you have done something wrong or that it is your fault that your child has a mental health condition. However, this is often not the case.
Children and young adults struggle with their mental health for many different reasons. Though you may feel helpless, there are several ways to support them.
Symptoms of Mental Health Issues
The symptoms of mental health conditions are highly varied and can present differently in children. However, there are some common signs and symptoms associated with mental health conditions, such as:
- Becoming withdrawn and spending more time alone
- Appearing on edge and nervous
- Struggling with extreme mood swings
- Finding it difficult to concentrate
- Eating too much or too little
- A persistent low mood
- Experiencing low self-esteem and feeling worthless
- Poor academic performance
If you are concerned that a child is exhibiting these symptoms, check in with them and initiate a conversation. We also recommend arranging an appointment with a mental health professional to see what the next steps could be in terms of treatment.
Common Mental Health Issues in Children
Some of the signs that arise from common mental health conditions may appear similar to normal childhood or teenage behaviour. In turn, they may be overlooked. However, they may be symptomatic of conditions such as:
- Depression – Affecting all areas of life, depression is rising amongst teens and children. Children with depression can find it difficult to enjoy daily activities and keep up with ordinary life. They may also fall behind at school.
- Anxiety – Children and teenagers with anxiety worry excessively over anything and everything. They often experience significant emotional distress because of their anxiety and may also struggle with their self-esteem.
- Eating disorders – Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa affect children and adolescents’ physical and mental health. Those struggling with an eating disorder may simultaneously experience anxiety and depression.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – PTSD in children can stem from an injury, the death of a loved one, or witnessing violence. Symptoms can include nightmares, mood swings, and avoiding places that remind them of the event.
These are only a few mental health conditions that children and teenagers can struggle with. They can also face conditions such as schizophrenia, personality disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Causes of Mental Health Conditions
There is no one cause of mental health problems in children and young adults. Multiple factors can influence them, including:
- Experiences of discrimination
- A physical health condition
- Childhood abuse or neglect
Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia may also run in families. Research shows that those with a close family member struggling with a mental health condition are more likely to develop one themselves.
Researchers have also found links between excessive screen time and mental health conditions. Social media can be a significant source of anxiety for children and young adults, as they can be exposed to cyberbullying and feel immense pressure to emulate celebrities and figures that they see online.
Approximately one in every six children aged 5 to 16 has a mental health problem. This is an increase from one in every nine in 2017. More and more young people are struggling with their mental health, leaving parents at a loss for what to do. However, there is hope – mental health conditions are treatable, and as a parent, there are many things that you can do at home.
How To Help
Whether your child has a diagnosable condition or not, supporting their mental health can be easier than you might think. Here are some tips on how to help your child:
- Educate yourself. Understanding the importance of good mental health and identifying early symptoms can help you spot any red flags in your child’s mental health if they arise.
- Teach stress management techniques. Children will grow up experiencing stress in the form of arguments with friends, homework, and exams. Teaching stress management techniques can help them manage this inevitability and protect their mental health simultaneously. These techniques can include journaling, exercise, and meditating to keep their stress in check.
- Look after yourself. When you model healthy habits and coping mechanisms, your child will pick up on them and learn from your example. Take time to look after your own mental health by practising mindfulness and self-compassion. Additionally, consider managing your sleeping and eating habits better.
- Listen to your child. Even when they are young, children are the experts when it comes to their own mental health. If they tell you that they feel unwell and don’t want to go to school, listen and ask questions. There could be an underlying cause, such as not wanting to face bullies or feeling too anxious because of a presentation. Don’t blow them off and write off their feelings – they may hide things from you in the future if you do.
- Reach out for help. If your child has a diagnosable mental health condition, do not hesitate to reach out for help. Without professional treatment, their mental health can worsen, meaning that self-help techniques may not be enough to support them. Professional help can benefit both them and the rest of the family immensely.
Some children and adolescents struggling with their mental health may be reluctant to change or help, and they may even refuse therapy. In this case, don’t panic – you can work with both your child and a therapist to encourage your child to complete treatment.
Children of all ages can struggle with their mental health for various reasons. Irrespective of the cause, there are ways that you can support your child and encourage them to heal.
For professional support, contact Khiron Clinics today. Our expert clinicians can help young adults and children manage their mental health conditions in a supportive, healthy environment.
If you have a client or know of someone struggling with their mental health, reach out to us at Khiron Clinics. We believe that we can improve therapeutic outcomes and avoid misdiagnosis by providing an effective residential programme and outpatient therapies addressing underlying psychological trauma. Allow us to help you find the path to realistic, long-lasting recovery. For more information, call us today. UK: 020 3811 2575 (24 hours). USA: (866) 801 6184 (24 hours).
 Twenge JM, Joiner TE, Rogers ML, Martin GN. Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes, and Suicide Rates Among U.S. Adolescents After 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Time. Clinical Psychological Science. 2018;6(1):3-17. doi:10.1177/2167702617723376
 Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2020: NHS digial, 22 October 2020;