It’s easy to know your child needs help dealing with a fever or a broken bone, but mental health conditions can be harder to identify. Children of all ages, even as young infants, can experience mental health conditions. A difficult part 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.

1 in 5 children (20%) and adolescents may have a mental health condition at any given time. It is important to remember that a child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health.

Almost 2/3's of all young people with mental health conditions are not getting the help they need. Without support, children may experience school failure, substance use and family trouble.

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

What are the symptoms of mental illness in children and/or adolescents?

Symptoms vary depending on the type of mental condition.

For signs and symptoms related to specific mental health conditions, please refer to our Family Resource Kit Fact Sheets or Educator Resource Kit Fact Sheets.

If you think your child needs help

  • If you are worried about your child’s emotions or behaviors, you can start by talking to friends, family members, your spiritual counselor, your child’s school counselor, or your child’s pediatrician/family physician about your concerns.
  • Your child’s pediatrician can talk with you about your concerns, and can make referrals for treatment.
  • Your insurance company can provide you with a list of mental health professionals within your healthcare network.

Take a look at our First Steps in Seeking Help Fact Sheet (English or Spanish) or Crisis Services Fact Sheet (English or Spanish)

For additional information on specific mental health conditions or supports, please go to our Resources Page for Educators, or Teens/Young Adults