Signs a child may need
mental health support
As parents and caretakers, we do all we can to provide our kids with a happy and stress-free upbringing. But children, like adults, experience mental and emotional ups and downs, with good days and bad days. How can you tell the difference between an everyday struggle and a more serious concern?
If you’re worried about your child’s mental health, you’re not alone: an estimated one in six children between the ages of six and 17 has a treatable mental health challenge, according to a JAMA Pediatrics article. There are ways you can help your child, signs you can look for to determine whether professional support may be appropriate, and resources to help ensure that your child receives the right care.
COVID-19 impact on children
While many factors can affect mental health, the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging for children and adolescents, with changes in routine and isolation from friends, family, and classmates. Many households are experiencing newfound stress and financial challenges, all of which can impact a child’s emotional well-being. Some may also be experiencing the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19.
We may be unable to shield our children from the pandemic, but we can start conversations to determine what they’re thinking and experiencing. If you sense anxiety or uncertainty, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you reassure your children and make yourself available to listen, converse, and provide appropriate, truthful information as you answer their questions.
The CDC also offers a valuable parental resources kit, so you can learn how to guide your children through the pandemic and help them cope.
Age by age signs
Children of all ages can be touched by mental health challenges, some as a result of serious hardships in their own lives or the lives of family members – with or without the impact of a pandemic. It’s helpful to know the signs of anxiety, depression, and other issues as you determine if your child may require additional help.
Recognizing early on that your child has a mental health challenge can benefit their long-term mental and physical health. Fifty percent of all lifetime mental illness develops by the age of 14, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Click to download the guide for signs to look for by age.
Identifying care options
A great first step is to talk to your pediatrician, whose professional advice and familiarity with your child’s development will be beneficial. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (Blue Cross) members don’t need referrals to seek therapy, but it’s important to keep your pediatrician updated on external care your child receives.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has a list of different types of therapists who may be able to help your child, depending on their needs. Therapists can evaluate your child’s mental health and talk through techniques that can help, while a psychiatrist can diagnose mental illnesses, and prescribe medication if needed.
There are several steps you can consider to identify the right therapist for your child:
- Blue Cross members can use the Find a Doctor tool to find a child therapist nearby
- You can ask friends, family members, or your pediatrician for recommendations
- You can conduct research and call therapy practices, asking questions to try to find the right fit
Well Connection, Blue Cross’s telehealth platform, is another option available to many Blue Cross members, allowing your child to get virtual therapy from licensed providers anywhere in the United States. Check MyBlue to see if your plan offers access.
Self-guided programs can also be valuable, and can allow children to go at their own pace as they explore their mental health and discover ways to improve it. With Learn to Live®´, children over 13 can take a seven-minute assessment and participate in tailored programs, designed to provide support for people dealing with conditions including social anxiety, mild depression, and substance use. Check MyBlue to see if your plan offers access to this tool.
If your child is using self-guided programs, or consulting with a therapist via telehealth, offer them a quiet, private space.
Remember that as children grow and enter their teenage years, mental health can become more complex. You know your child best, so trust your instincts and use available resources to help determine if you and your child should seek professional help.
You and your child are not alone in seeking care
It’s important to show your child that you’re there to listen, provide support, and ease their concerns. Share your own feelings so they see that mental health challenges are normal.
It may also be worthwhile to explore whether you need to seek help for yourself. Caring for a loved one, especially guiding a child or adolescent through the process of seeking professional help for mental health, can be overwhelming. Be sure to take care of yourself, physically and mentally.
You want nothing more than happiness for your child. Understanding how to support their mental health and taking proper steps to guide them toward professional care will lead you and your child toward a healthier and happier life.