February 26, 2020

Understanding mental health in kids and teens

Signs to look out for and ways you can help teens who may be experiencing a mental health condition.

With social, school, athletic, and cultural pressures, today’s youth have a lot to deal with. Anxiety and stress are a normal part of growing up — worrying about a test, a big game, or about getting into college is common. Periodic bad moods or mood swings can also be normal in kids, especially teens.

When it goes beyond a temporary phase or occasional event, it could be a sign of something more. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, known as NAMI, half of all chronic mental health conditions begin by age 14 and three-quarters by age 24. However, mental health conditions are treatable.

How to support kids and teens infographic

Signs to look out for

Here are some signs to look out for and actions to take if you’re worried your child or teen may be experiencing a mental health condition.

  • Loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities
  • Being consistently down, negative, irritable, or listlessness; having low self-esteem, guilt, or low energy; crying more than normal
  • Withdrawing from social functions, social isolation, rejection of or loss of friends
  • Sleep issues, nightmares
  • Physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach aches, or change in appetite
  • Avoiding school, frequently getting in trouble at school, trouble concentrating or decline in grades
  • Talk of or efforts to run away from home
  • Substance abuse
  • Talk of suicide or signs of self-harm behaviors (for example, cutting or, burning)

If any of these signs are happening frequently or over an extended period of time, it may be time to talk to your child’s pediatrician.