Children’s Mental Health: What are the Signs that your Child Needs Help?

Did you know that 1 in 5 Ontario children under 19 years of age experience a mental health issue that is severe enough to disrupt their daily functioning? Although this statistic can seem very alarming, the good news is that early intervention can lead to a better life for these children. But early intervention can only occur if parents seek help at this stage of life. Unfortunately, there is a negative stigma attached to mental health issues, and consequently, many parents ignore or refuse to acknowledge the existence of a mental health disorder. It’s now time to get rid of negative stereotypes surrounding mental health and help these kids thrive. If mental health issues can be diagnosed early – even as early as infancy – the future prospects for that child will be improved given that scientific evidence proves that the majority of brain development occurs between 0-6 years old.

Some of the more common mental health disorders affecting children and youth are Anxiety, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Behaviour Disorders, Mood Disorders, Eating Disorders, Schizophrenia, Substance Abuse and Tourette Syndrome.

Recognizing the symptoms of a mental health issue is the key to early intervention. It may be difficult to know when you should seek help for your child. How do you recognize the symptoms of a mental health issue? Here’s a list of characteristics and behaviours that may be signs of an underlying mental health disorder:

  • getting significantly lower marks in school
  • avoiding friends and family
  • having frequent outbursts of anger and rage
  • losing his or her appetite
  • having difficulty sleeping
  • rebelling against authority
  • drinking a lot and/or using drugs
  • not doing the things he or she used to enjoy
  • worrying constantly
  • experiencing frequent mood swings
  • not concerned with his or her appearance
  • obsessed with his or her weight
  • lacking energy or motivation
  • hitting or bullying other children
  • attempting to injure him or her self

Children and youth with the most serious mental health disorders (e.g., severe psychosis or schizophrenia) may exhibit:

  • distorted thinking
  • excessive anxiety
  • odd body movements
  • abnormal mood swings
  • acting overly suspicious of others
  • seeing or hearing things that others don’t see or hear

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, contact your doctor and check out these resources for support.

Children`s Mental Health Ontario

Sick Kids Hospital

The ABCs of Mental Health

Learning Disabilities Association of Ontario

National Centre for Learning Disabilities

Reaching In Reaching Out

Peel Behavioural Services

Peel Children’s Centre