It’s not easy to watch a child or teen struggle,
especially when you aren’t sure “what’s wrong” or how to help.
Symptoms of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression in children and adolescents are often misinterpreted (i.e. “he has a bad attitude” or “she’s hormonal”) which results in child not receiving help, potentially leading to the struggle worsening.
- Often angry
- Often sad?
- Grades slipping?
- Doesn’t seem to enjoy activities or pastimes
- Overall “bad attitude”
- Wants to sleep all the time OR isn’t able to sleep
- Appetite changes – either eating more than normal or not eating
- Doesn’t seem to care about appearance
- You suspect the use of drugs or alcohol
- Cutting or other kinds of self-harm (i.e. eraser burns)
Communicate, Reassure and Protect
It’s not easy watching a child or teen in your life struggle, especially when you aren’t sure exactly “what’s wrong” or how to help.
1. Communicate Promise to listen without judgement and ask questions.
- How are you feeling?
- How can I help you?
- Be honest with them about your concerns. Share your feelings.
- Allow them to respond and to share their feelings.
- Let your child know you are there to help them.
- Remind them that you are listening to them and you’re not judging.
- Don’t criticize or trivialize their feelings or concerns.
- Don’t say things like, “just get over it,” “stop worrying about it” or “try harder”.
- Assure them that everyone one will struggle from time to time. Getting help does not make “weak” or “bad”.
3. Protect “If things are getting in the way of a child thriving, of achieving their optimum potential, that’s why there’s adults in the world; to help them navigate through.” Dr. Read Sulik, child psychiatrist and founding SGMWI Board member
- Trust your gut, if you’re worried about your child reach out for help.
- Family Physician, pediatrician, school guidance counselor, or clergy can be great supports for you and your child.
- Never shrug off threats of suicide as typical teenage “melodrama”.
Seeking help for your student
Visit our resources page to find mental health care providers.
No matter if you are concerned about a nine year old or a nineteen year old, there are effective techniques available to help young people overcome mental illnesses. Chronic stress experienced as a child can affect the developing brain and cause issues well into adulthood. Early intervention mental health care can change that, reduce the likelihood of repeated bouts and severity. A family physician or pediatrician can often offer a referral to the appropriate mental health care provider.
If child, or anyone, is threatening to hurt themselves or someone else:
- Do not panic.
- Make sure student is in care of someone trusted.
- Remove firearms.
- Lock up and carefully account for household items such as knives, prescription drugs, and poisonous substances.
- Call 911 OR In the Fargo- Moorhead area you can contact the emergency departments at Sanford, Essentia or Prairie St. John’s. Take threats of suicide seriously. Do not be scared to call 911…. they are there to help.