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Signs of a mental health condition

Photo: Children experiencing mental health conditions might show their symptoms in different ways.

Just like adults, children and young people can have sad or negative thoughts or feelings from time to time. This can affect their mood and behaviour. We all feel down sometimes, but if you notice your child’s mood or behaviour has changed significantly, this could be a sign that something is wrong.

If your child is showing signs and symptoms of a mental health condition, they may need professional help.

Signs and symptoms of low mood and depression in children include:

  • extreme or rapid changes in mood, such as irritability, tearfulness or anger
  • excessive fear, anxiety or worry
  • continuous feelings of sadness and hopelessness
  • social withdrawal
  • increased sensitivity to rejection
  • extreme increases or decreases in appetite 
  • changes in eating habits
  • changes in sleep, such as sleeplessness or excessive sleep
  • vocal outbursts or crying
  • difficulty concentrating
  • fatigue and low energy
  • physical complaints (such as stomach aches, headaches or sickness) that don't respond to treatment
  • reduced interest in hobbies, events and activities at home, with friends or in school
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • impaired thinking or concentration
  • thoughts of death or suicide.

Children may not show all of these signs and symptoms, but it’s important you communicate with your child if you are worried about any of the above. If your concerns continue then visit one of the useful organisations listed here, or speak to their class teacher, Teacher of the Deaf, GP or other professionals working with your child. 

It’s not your responsibility to work out if your child has a mental health issue or what sort of mental health problem your child is suffering from. It’s the responsibility of healthcare professionals to do a good assessment and consider what difficulties your child may be having and why.

If you’re concerned that your child may be self-harming or if your child has expressed thoughts of harming themselves or ending their life, you should take them to the GP or to A&E immediately.