Get your questions about children’s mental health answered.
We know the importance of taking care of our child’s physical health, but mental health also plays a major role in their overall well-being. It is the foundation for how all of us feel, think, and interact with others. Being mentally healthy means we have more skills and supports in place to manage stress and to cope with difficult situations. Being mentally healthy does not always make life easier, but it does make children stronger. Positive mental health allows children to be more resilient and able to adapt when difficult situations arise.
Fortunately, there are many ways to take care of your child’s mental health. These include:
- Finding activities with your child that can reduce their stress. While everyone is different, it is important that we find activities that help all of us reduce and manage stress. There are many excellent resources online to explore and find what works for you and your child. A few ideas to get you and your child started are:
- Take a long walk outside;
- Help them start a list of things they are grateful for;
- Assist them in learn how to meditate;
- Listen to their favorite music and either dance wildly or just listen to the notes;
- Help them cook and enjoy a delicious meal; and
- Encourage them to perform a random act of kindness,
- Spending time with people they care about. While connecting in person with some of the special people in your life may not be possible, there are many ways for children and youth to connect. Design and send a special “I’m thinking of you card” for important people in their lives. Help your child talk to them by phone, start a video call so they can see each other, or unwind together by playing a game online. If you have more than one child, try to spend a little one-on-one time with each child if possible. We are social by nature and enjoying a positive connection can be the boost we need.
- Teach your children how to take care of their physical health. There are many small things you can do to build better habits. Together, create a list of fun and free physical activities and do them. With your child, try a yoga class in-person or online. Teach your child how to cook simple and healthy food for meals and snacks. Eating too much sugar can have harmful effects on our bodies and our minds. Limit how much sugar you and your child eat. Drink lots of water! Water is important for our physical and mental health.
For specific ideas for fostering best mental health practices in children, visit our Fun & Games page.
If you are concerned that your child needs professional help, please check out the “I am concerned about my child’s mental health. How do I know they need professional help?” section of the FAQ.
Mental illnesses are treatable health conditions that can impact how a person feels, thinks, and behaves.. While living with mental illness can be challenging, it is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, 17% of youth six to 17 years old in the United States experience at least one mental disorder each year.1 The exact cause for mental illness is not known, but research shows it is a complex combination of genetics, environment, and lifestyle. It is important to remember it is not the fault of the child or person with the illness.2
Many mental illnesses improve with time and the right treatment, but it is a process. When a person is in the process of successfully managing their mental illness they are considered to be in recovery. Recovery may look different for everyone; however, there are four major dimensions that support recovery:
- Health — managing the illness or symptoms and making healthy choices that support physical and emotional well-being.
- Home — having a stable and safe place to live.
- Purpose — conducting meaningful daily activities.
- Community — having relationships that provide support, friendship, love, and hope.1
There are many treatment options for mental illnesses. Depending on the specific illness, certain treatments may be more effective than others. It is important to seek the help of a trained mental health professional who can help you find the support you need.
There are several ways to get in contact with a professional.
- Talk to your school counselor. They can help refer you to the proper professional.
- Reach out to your insurance provider to find mental health services in your network.
- Call 2-1-1 Texas at 2-1-1 or 1-877-541-7905. They provide information about resources in your local community.
- Call SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). They provide free 24-hour confidential treatment referral and information about mental and/or substance use disorders, prevention, and recovery. Their services are available in English and Spanish.
- Use Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist search engine to find therapists in your area.
It can be hard to know which behaviors are typical during a child’s development or when they are cause for concern. Symptoms of mental illness in children may include:
- Changes in school performance
- Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance, fighting to avoid bed or school
- Hyperactive behavior
- Frequent nightmares
- Frequent disobedience or aggression
- Frequent temper tantrums1
The earlier treatment is received for mental illness, the better the outcome will be. So if you think there is even a slight chance your child needs help, it is best to reach out as soon as possible.
If at any point a child’s behavior is unsafe or they mention wanting to hurt themselves or others, it is important to seek help immediately.2
If you or someone you know is an immediate danger to themselves or others, call 911 immediately.
If you or someone you know is not in immediate danger and need help managing a crisis, there are many options available:
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They provide a toll-free hotline available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. The Lifeline is available in more than 150 languages.
- Contact YouthLine. They provide phone, text, and chat support for youth ages 11 – 21. The phone lines are open 24-hours a day and answered by youth from 4-10 pm (PT), outside of those hours, adults will be available to answer calls. YouthLine can be reached by:
- Calling 877-968-8491
- Texting ‘teen2teen’ to 839863
- Chat by going online
- Text Crisis Text Line. Text Hello to 741741. If you prefer texting to calling this is an excellent option as the service is entirely text-based. A live, trained Crisis Counselor will receive the text and respond as soon as possible from their secure online platform.
The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has presented many challenges for children and families. Right now many caregivers are faced with explaining and helping children adjust and settle into an ever-changing landscape. We know this is a difficult time and additional support may be needed. Below is a list of mental health resources that may help you and your family:
- Fostering Resilience: Responding to the Needs of School-Age Children by the South Southwest MHTTC.
- Tips for the Public: Managing Your Stress by Texas Health and Human Services Commission
- Parent Resources for Helping Kids Cope with COVID-19 by Changes – Rock Springs
- Supporting Children During Coronavirus by The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
- Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus by NPR
- Talking to Children About COVID-19 by the National Association of School Psychologists
If you have a question that this FAQ did not address, reach out by filling out the form on this webpage. Someone will respond to your query as soon as possible.
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