Recognising Signs of Mental Illness in Children

The first years of life are a critical period for the development of good mental health. It is important to recognise problems as soon as they appear and to intervene early.

Signs and Symptoms

Parents can detect changes in the mood and behaviour of their children that can potentially be signs of a mental disorder. As a parent, pay attention to the following changes in your child’s behaviour:

  • Difficulty sleeping, or the opposite, sleeping all the time
  • Loss of appetite, or the opposite, eating much more than before
  • A lack of energy
  • Complaints about nausea, stomach aches or headaches
  • Constant mood swings, or anger that appears excessive
  • Constant worrying
  • Academic performance that is much lower than usual
  • Avoidance of family and friends
  • Not engaging in activities previously enjoyed
  • Hitting or intimidating others, or voluntarily trying to inflict self-injury
  • An obsession with losing weight, or the opposite, neglecting to take care of their appearance

What To Do

If your child shows some of the above signs and symptoms, do not worry and continue to observe them. Perhaps they are experiencing a problem that will last a few days only and do not necessarily have a mental illness. Stay attentive, listen to them without prejudice and assure them that you are there to help.

If you see that the changes in your child’s mood and behaviour last long or that they are too intense, an assessment by a professional could be necessary.

Help and Resources

Resources for Help and Support

Resources are available for parents and children who wish to receive help or more information about mental illness in children:

  • LigneParents This link opens a new window (toll-free helpline: 1 800 361-5085 – website in French only)
    This free and confidential service is available day and night to all parents of children aged between 0 and 20 years. The service is provided by professionals.
  • Tel-Jeunes This link opens a new window (toll-free helpline: 1 800 263-2266)
    This free and confidential service is available day and night to all young people between 5 and 20 years old. The service is provided by professionals. 

You may also go to the mental health (mental illness) information page to find all available mental health resources.

Resources for Care and Services

To receive care or services, or to find a psychotherapist with whom your child feels comfortable, contact one of the following resources:

To find contact information for your family medicine clinic, your CISSS or your CIUSSS, go to Finding a Resource.

Last update: September 27, 2016 11:57 AM


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