As a teacher, school administrator or school counselor, you are in a unique position to notice mental health problems that children may have and to help families understand these issues.

It’s easy to know your child needs help dealing with a fever or a broken bone, but mental health problems can be harder to identify. Children of all ages, even as young infants, can experience mental health problems. A difficult of parenting is knowing the kinds of behaviors and moods that are usual for the stage of development your child is in and when your child has gone beyond the norm and needs help.

One in five children and adolescents may have a mental health problem at any given time. It is important to remember that a child’s mental health is just as important as his/her physical health.

Almost two-thirds of all young people with mental health problems are not getting the help they need. Without help, these problems can lead to school failure, substance use and family trouble. Exposure to violence, death, abuse or neglect may lead to mental health problems in children.

A child’s age, stage of development and ability to communicate can make it difficult to distinguish between a mental health problem and natural development.

Some of these illnesses, such as anxiety disorders, eating disorders, mood disorders and schizophrenia, can occur in adults as well as children. Others, such as behavior and development disorders, elimination disorders, and learning and communication disorders, begin in childhood only, although they can continue into adulthood.

If you think a child needs help

If you are worried about the emotions and behaviors of a child you are working with, you can start by talking to his/her family members.  Perhaps they are concerned about the child too.

You can also offer support and guidance to the child and his/her parents, as many families do not know where to start in seeking help.  One way to do this is with resources.  Please refer to to our Educator Resource Kit or Family Resource Kit which include signs and symptoms of many mental health conditions as well as resources and supports to benefit the school system and families. These are all available for download or for ordering at no cost.

Where to go for help

Mental Health Association of Maryland
www.mhamd.org

Maryland Coalition of Families
www.mdcoalition.org

Maryland Learning Links
www.marylandlearninglinks.org

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
http://www.nctsnet.org/nccts/nav.do?pid=hom_main

Resources for school personnel, please visit:
http://www.nctsnet.org/nccts/nav.do?pid=ctr_aud_schl

Think port: Think Education. Think Maryland.
http://www.thinkport.org