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Children’s Mental Health

With 75% of adults experiencing mental health issues before the age of 181 - it’s clear that the sooner you can spot the signs in childhood, the better.

We’ll help you understand the signs and behaviours that could point to a child or young person needing support to maintain their mental wellbeing through their teenage years and into adulthood.

If you have urgent concerns about your child’s mental health and wellbeing, please speak to your GP or call the Young Minds parents helpline on 0808 802 5544 for advice.

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There’s lots of changes in the behaviour in young people as they grow up. While many of these come with the territory of teenage life, altogether, they could be pointing to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. If your child is showing these signs they will need further support with the help of your GP or local support services.

We’ve got a simple way to remember some of the signs and what to look out for if you’ve started to feel concerned about your child’s mental health - M-A-S-K:

M

M – MOOD

They get irritable, argumentative or aggressive towards you. They may blame you if things go wrong. They can also become withdrawn

A

A – ACTIONS

They may experience changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Look out for any signs of bullying, alcohol, drugs or self-harm

S

S - SOCIAL

They suddenly appear especially bored, lonely or withdrawn or they start to get into trouble. Losing interest in friends and other things they liked to do or missing school are common warning signs.

 

Anxiety

K - KEEP TALKING

Refusing or being reluctant to talk about how they’re feeling is common. But keep listening and ask how they are feeling. When they do open up, make sure they know there’s someone there who really cares.

 

What can I do to help?

Talking to your child is a key part of understanding what they might be going through. The best way to approach this is with a casual conversation – ask them how they are feeling and letting them say what they want to say will help.

The chat doesn’t have to go straight into asking about their mental health, it’s more about asking about their day and making sure you make the time to listen. The more you talk and listen - the sooner your child will know that they can talk to you when they need to.

Linking a young person to self-help information they can read and use at their own pace will allow them some privacy and the opportunity to do this in their own time.

It is important to encourage a child or young person to look after themselves by eating healthily, getting enough exercise and sleeping well. How they feel physically will have a huge impact on their emotional health.

Find out more

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Helping your child understand their feelings

We run the Blues programme in selected schools across the UK, helping young people who are starting to show depressive tendencies. The young people learn coping strategies and how to think understand their emotions.

One of the ways they do this is by using the triangle of feelings. This exercise helps show how our thoughts, feelings and actions are all linked.

The purpose of this exercise is to learn new ways of changing our thinking and doing, with the goal of feeling better.

Download our Triangle of feelings exercise and try using it at home yourself and then share with your child. You can also sign up to receive further exercises by email to try at home.

Sign up

Talking to your child

Anxiety

All children and young people have fears and worries which is quite normal. This can be a concern when they affect your child’s thoughts and behaviours on a daily basis.

Find out more about anxiety and how to help your child manage and cope.

MANAGING ANXIETY

Where can I get further support?

Remember that if you have serious concerns about your child’s behaviour, seek medical help or call 999 if you have reason to think they are at risk of harming themselves or others.

The GP is the first point of call if you have other concerns about your child’s mental health and want to seek help.

 For other support, click here

Other helpful information:

For parents:

A guide to mental health services in England: this page on NHS England includes a local search to find your nearest mental health services and advice for when to seek help

Who’s who in CAMHS: Young Minds guide to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Welcome to the Moodzone - Depression in children and teenagers: More information on the signs and symptoms of depression in children and young people and when to get medical help

Young minds – For Parents  

Parent and Carers Together PACT: Support for parents/carers of children/young people with mental health issues:

 

For young people:

Young Minds – Find Help: find out more about how you're feeling, get information about a mental health condition or know what support is available to you

NHS Choices – Young people and mental health: An information hub offering young people advice and help on mental health problems including depression, anxiety and stress

Reference:

[1] Future in Mind – DoH & NHS England 2015