Mental Health Signals for Kids

Virginia’s Story
September 15, 2020
Tomás’ Story
September 29, 2020

Mental Health Signals for Kids

These resources are general reference guides for parents or guardians to read through and assess if therapy for their child may be needed. To be connected with a counselor at The Bridge Youth & Family Services, call (847) 359-7490.


General signs of distress:

• Frequent displays of temper
• Withdrawal from usual activities
• Significant change in grades, attitude, hygiene, functioning, sleeping, and/or eating habits
• Delinquency
• Excessive fighting and/or aggression (physical/verbal)
• Inability to cope with day to day activities
• Lots of somatic complaints
• Sexual promiscuity
• Suicidal and/or homicidal ideation
• Self-harm

Anxiety red flags:

• Demonstrates excessive distress out of proportion to the situation: crying physical symptoms, sadness, anger, frustration, hopelessness, embarrassment
• Easily distressed or agitated when in a stressful situation
• Repetitive reassurance questions, “what if” concerns, inconsolable, won’t respond to logical arguments
• Headaches, stomach aches, regularly too sick to go to school
• Anticipatory anxiety–worrying hours, days, weeks ahead
• Disruptions of sleep
• Perfectionism/self-critical
• Overly responsible, people pleasing, excessive concern that others are upset with them, unnecessary apologizing
• Demonstrating excessive avoidance, refuses to participate in expected activities, refusal to attend school
• Disruption of child or family functioning
• Excessive time spent consoling child about distress with ordinary situations

Depression red flags:

• Negative thinking — “I can’t, I won’t”
• Social withdrawal
• Irritability
• Poor school performance
• Lack of interest in peer activities
• Somatic complaints (muscle aches or lack of energy)
• Reports of feeling helpless a lot of the time
• Lowering their confidence-level about intelligence, friencs, future, body, etc.
• Getting into trouble because of boredom
• Declining school performance

Ways to provide support to your child:

• Show affection
• Take time to talk
• Be involved
• Encourage autonomy
• Establish clear rules
• Encourage and model healthy habits (diet, exercise, sleep, communication)
• Support them in managing stress