Expert Top Tips: How to spot signs of mental health problems in your child

Each week we will be bringing you top tips from experts in their field. This week we have been reading advice from Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. We have gathered together their top tips on spotting the warning signs of developing mental illness in children. The pandemic has proven to be having a devastating effect on children and their mental health. It is imperative that we learn how to support them and how to recognise when there may be signs of mental illness developing.

1. Withdrawing from, or avoiding social interactions

If a child is no longer interacting with friends and even family members, becoming isolated or appear to be withdrawing from you.

2. Outbursts or extreme irritability

For children whose tantrums continue as they get older and become something that is not developmentally appropriate, causing problems with peers, family or at school, professional help may be needed. Anger is one of the main reasons children are referred for mental health treatment.

3. Drastic changes in mood, behaviour or personality

 A sudden, major change in personality and/or behaviour, particularly one that is not related to an obvious event (such as taking a drug or losing a loved one), often indicates a problem.

4. Difficulty sleeping

Sleeping problems can be a symptom of poor mental health. For example, poor quality sleep, difficulties falling and staying asleep, as well as sleeping too much, can all be linked to depression.

5. Out-of-control behaviour that can be harmful

Sometimes, ongoing challenging behaviour can indicate other health issues or an underlying developmental, social or emotional problem. If this behaviour becomes harmful to themselves or to others, it is important that you seek advice as soon as possible.

6. Persistent sadness — two or more weeks

Although fears and worries are typical in children, persistent or extreme forms of fear and sadness could be due to anxiety or depression. 

7. Frequent headaches or stomachaches

Physical symptoms are often the way children experience anxiety. Stomach aches in the morning before school, headaches when there’s a math test on the schedule. These physical symptoms may be the first evidence a parent has that a child is anxious.

You can find out more information about Children's Mental Health here >>>

If you need any further advice or support about your child's mental health, there are a range of service which you can contact including: Barnardo's, YoungMinds, MindEd for families the NSPCC and your local NHS or practice.

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