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Keeping an Eye on the Emotional Pulse of Your Child

“According to the Surgeon General and Department of Health and Human Services, youth who have undiagnosed or untreated mental illness are 2 to 4 times more likely to have issues with substance abuse and almost half drop out of school.”

We know that supporting our children’s healthy development, both their physical and mental health, requires us to role model regular exercise, the use of stress reduction/stress-calming techniques and maintaining a balanced diet.  One thing we may forget is the importance of role modeling good coping skills for stress and help-seeking behavior early on with our children and youth so they know it’s ok to ask for help with the big things and the little things.

According to the Surgeon General and Department of Health and Human Services, youth who have undiagnosed or untreated mental illness are 2 to 4 times more likely to have issues with substance abuse and almost half drop out of school.

It’s daunting to think that 1 in every 5 American children or adolescents have a mental health problem and at least 1 in 10 suffer from a severe emotional disturbance. What’s more alarming is only 1/3 of all children with a mental health disorder receive treatment.

Often, depression in teens is overlooked because parents and others may feel that unhappiness or "moodiness" is typical in young people and blame hormones or other factors for teens' feelings of sadness or grief. This leaves many teens undiagnosed and untreated for their illness.

How to Know if Your Child Needs Help

Children go through many changes, especially during the teen years.  Parents and family members are often the first to see signs that a child might be having problems with their emotions or their behavior. 

The signs that could indicate your child may be having difficulties range from:

  • Declining school performance, skips school or just doesn’t want to go to school.
  • Seems unusually sad or troubled by a major loss or event.
  • Having trouble paying attention.
  • Doesn’t seem to have friends or has less friends.
  • Pulls away from your regular family routine.
  • Seems nervous, fearful, or stressed much of the time.
  • Is uncooperative or defiant much of the time.
  • Has lots of tantrums or outbursts of anger.
  • Is using alcohol or drugs or experimenting with use.
  • Is experiencing dramatic mood changes such as depression, sadness, and irritability.

Click here for the Keeping an Eye on the Emotional Pulse of Your Child Parent Message (.pdf version).