Children and Youth

It is easy for parents to identify their child’s physical needs: nutritious food, warm clothes when it’s cold, bedtime at a reasonable hour. However, a child’s mental and emotional needs may not be as obvious. Good mental health allows children to think clearly, develop socially and learn new skills. Additionally, good friends and encouraging words from adults are all important for helping children develop self confidence, high self-esteem, and a healthy emotional outlook on life. But if you suspect that your child may have a mental health disorder, it's important to identify and seek treatment early.

Half of all mental health disorders begin by age 14.
75% begin by age 24.
Learn the signs. If you are concerned,
get your child screened.

Research shows that it is not uncommon for mental health conditions to begin during childhood and in fact shows that 50% of all mental health disorders begin by age 14. Unfortunately, many children do not receive needed treatment and intervention services for these conditions. If untreated, mental health conditions can cause disruptions in all aspects of a child’s life and lead to future difficulties, such as:

  • Problems in school
  • Involvement in the criminal justice system
  • Substance abuse
  • Increased risk of suicide

Mood and behavioral changes are normal for children and are usually unrelated to mental health conditions. It can sometimes be difficult to notice when a child is displaying symptoms of a condition. The observations of teachers and others who frequently spend time with your child are important in helping to identify potential warning signs. However, as your child’s caregiver, you are in the best position to notice the signs.

Some of the common warning signs of mental health conditions among children and youth are:

  • Poor school performance
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches and other sicknesses
  • Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
  • Prolonged feelings of sadness and loneliness
  • Showing disinterest in favorite activities or is “too tired to play”
  • Showing anger and hostility toward people and surroundings
  • Big changes in personality
  • Fighting or arguing with others
  • Trouble sitting still or concentrating most days
  • Runs away from home
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Worries or fears “bad things will happen”
  • Talking about death/suicide
  • Acting younger than his/her age

Mental health conditions are treatable. Do not hesitate to speak with a mental health professional, pediatrician, local mental health authority, or school nurse/counselor if your child is displaying any of the above behaviors over an extended period of time or if you have any questions or concerns. Early diagnosis and treatment is important for preventing long-term problems and producing the best possible outcome for your child.



Your Child's Mental Health

Is  a Young Person Trying to Tell You Something?

The Angry Child


Suicide Prevention

Texas Suicide Prevention provides a number of resources, including toolkits, publications, and trainings, targeted at individuals who work with youth to prevent suicides. For more information please visit



Mental Health America - Screening Tools

Texas Health & Human Services Commission Help Line
Dial 211 or call 877-541-7905

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
800-273-TALK (8255)   

Texas Suicide Prevention

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health

Center for Parent Information and Resources

National Association of School Psychologists

Texas Parents as Teachers