9 Warning Signs of Poor Mental Health in Kids

As a parent, your child’s well-being is always a top priority. While there is so much focus on physical health, mental health is equally important – but what happens when a child starts struggling mentally?

Because they can’t verbalize or express their thoughts and feelings as well as some adults can, it’s often difficult to pinpoint exactly what’s going on if you don’t have the proper training. Working with a mental health professional is one of the best ways to identify symptoms and behaviors to target during treatment, but recognizing the signs of poor mental health early on can make an enormous difference in your child’s life.

Signs of Mental Illness in Kids

Here are nine warning signs of poor mental health in kids to watch out for.

They lose interest in their favorite activities.

When kids lose interest in their favorite activities, it’s a clear sign that something’s wrong. They might stop participating in hobbies, sports, or other extracurricular activities they once thrived in. If they begin losing interest in schoolwork or spending time with family and friends, you also have reason to be concerned.

Their behavior changes.

A sudden behavior change is one of the most recognizable signs of mental illness or poor mental health in kids. Common behaviors for children are withdrawing socially and becoming irritable or aggressive for no apparent reason. These behaviors will be out of character for your child, so take note of any behaviors that seem out of the ordinary.

They have trouble concentrating in class.

Many kids have trouble focusing, but if your child starts to become easily distracted or has extreme difficulty paying attention, they may have an underlying mental health problem. Focus problems are usually detected in school by teachers or parents who see their kids having difficulty with homework.

They can’t sleep.

Every parent dreams of having a child that sleeps through the night. When this doesn’t happen, it’s stressful for everyone. But while dysregulated sleeping occurs frequently in childhood, excessive sleepiness, difficulty falling asleep, or frequent nightmares and night terrors may indicate emotional distress.

They start having unexplained physical symptoms.

Mental and physical health aren’t separate things; they influence each other more than you might think. Symptoms like stomachaches, headaches, and other unexplained aches and pains are sometimes indicators of mental health problems. This isn’t always the case, but it’s essential to investigate what’s causing the symptoms.

They have mood swings.

A child’s mood can fluctuate throughout the day, especially if they’re under the age of five. However, extreme or prolonged mood swings are a cause for concern. Watch out for frequent outbursts of anger, sadness, or anxiety that are uncharacteristic of your child or inappropriate for the situation.

They isolate themselves.

Isolation is one of the most common signs that someone is struggling with their mental health. It happens in adults and children but may look different depending on age. If your child starts to detach themselves from social activities or avoids being around friends and family altogether, they may be having a hard time with anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition.

Their eating habits change.

Noticeable changes in eating habits like a sudden increase or decrease in appetite, binge eating, or restrictive eating are all warning signs. These patterns are easier to notice in younger children, with some girls showing symptoms as early as 11 or 12. Since girls and women ages 12-25 have the highest rates of disordered eating, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your child’s nutritional health.

They have suicidal thoughts or show signs of self-harm.

Suicidal thoughts and self-harm are among the most alarming signs of a child’s declining mental health. It’s also the second leading cause of death for kids and young adults ages 10 to 24.  Kids may not directly express this to their parents, but other cues are red flags that they may be contemplating harming themself:

Take action immediately if you notice your child having these feelings or behaviors. You can call 988 to reach the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline or text HOME to 741741 for the Crisis Text Line to get assistance. Your child can also access these resources, so have them readily available in an emergency.

Does your child struggle with their mental health?

It’s scary if you notice your child start to exhibit any of these warning signs of poor mental health, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. When you work with Balance Psychiatric Services, you’ll have access to convenient telehealth services and psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners (PMHNPs) who are experts in dealing with pediatric mental health symptoms. Schedule an appointment with us today!