Recognising the signs of mental health difficulties in your children

Young people and families are being reminded of the importance of looking after their mental health and wellbeing as part of Children’s Mental Health Week (1st to 7th February).

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS (AWP) Trust are marking the awareness week by encouraging all children and young people to think about how they are feeling and explore the different ways they can express themselves to share their feelings and thoughts.

Parents and carers are also being encouraged to talk to the children and young people in their life about how they are feeling, how to spot signs of mental health difficulties and how to seek help.

Around three children in every primary school class has a mental health problem, and many more struggle with challenges from bullying to bereavement.

Ailsa Fullarton, from AWP’s Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), said: “It’s been a very difficult and challenging 12 months for many children who have faced periods away from school, friends, clubs and their other usual support networks. Many children and young people may have experienced anxiety about the pandemic and may feel things are out of their control.


“If you notice a change in your child’s mood, behaviour or personality, persistent sadness for two or more weeks, difficulty concentrating or withdrawal from social interactions, even those online, it’s a good idea to try and have a conversation with your child about their feelings and engage with some of the support ideas listed below. If things persist or get no better and you continue to feel worried please seek help via your school or GP.”


How to spot the signs of poor mental health in a child

  • Persistent sadness, for two or more weeks
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding social interactions
  • Hurting oneself or talking about hurting oneself
  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Outbursts or extreme irritability
  • Out-of-control behaviour that can be harmful
  • Drastic changes in mood, behaviour or personality
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Loss of weight
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in academic performance


How you can support a child with mental health difficulties

  • Talk to your child about how they are feeling and let them know it’s OK to be scared, worried, angry or sad
  • Normalise feelings of anxiety and sadness and explain that these are quite usual responses to this most unusual situation
  • Answer your child’s questions as best you can and appropriate to their age. Even if you don’t have the answers, just talking things through will help them feel calmer 
  • Encourage your child to do the things they enjoy and encourage them to get some exercise as this can improve how they are feeling
  • Provide reassurance and let your child know you are there to talk to about their thoughts and feelings
  • Encourage children to engage in creative activities such as creative writing, scrapbooking etc – producing a creative or visual record of this time may be helpful and therapeutic for some.
  • Engage in a positive activity together, as this can help take their mind off their worries and could provide an opportunity to talk about their feelings
  • Keep as many regular routines going as possible to help your child feel safe and secure. This can include things like having regular times for going to bed, waking up, eating meals and doing hobbies.

How to access help

  • Talk to your child’s school about any additional wellbeing interventions they might be able to offer
  • Seek help via Off The Record – or Kooth –
  • Speak to your GP who will be able to provide you with the most appropriate help

Useful websites and apps

Young minds –
Minded - 
Calm -  
Headspace -

Recognising the signs of mental health difficulties in your children