It is normal for children to have problems from time to time, and to express emotions such as anger, sadness, frustration, or to show anxiety.
You probably know your child better than anyone else, so you should consider chatting to a qualified professional if you observe that your child:
- is regularly anxious or distressed
- is upset and can’t be comforted or is having problems that seem to be getting worse
- has a sudden change in their usual behaviour that lasts longer than two weeks or that is hurting them or other people
- has problems that are getting in the way of their daily functioning
- has problems with eating, sleeping, concentrating or doing usual tasks such as school work or joining in regular social or family activities.
If you’re concerned and want to ask questions or think your child might need support, it’s a good idea to seek a professional’s help.
Who should I go to?
It can be hard to know where to go and how to access help for your child. But before going to a see anyone, it can be helpful to think about the type of support and assistance they need.
Would they benefit from…?
- Emotional support to develop coping skills and resilience.
- Access to information about mental illness and the symptoms you (or your partner) experience.
- Practical help with household tasks, travel and other caring activities they may have taken on.
- Extra support at school.
- Help for your teenager’s own mental health concerns.
- Support for challenging behaviour or family relationships.
- Assistance to take time out or access respite.
Help can come from family and friends or from professionals working in mental health, education or non-government organisations.
Start with your doctor
A good place to start the discussion about getting support for your child is with your doctor or a paediatrician. They will be able to help recognise if your child needs assistance, or if your concerns are just a normal part of your child’s growth. You can also approach:
- your local child and adolescent mental health service
- a social worker
- a psychologist/counsellor
- your local child health nurse – there may be one at your child’s school.
KidsMatter (the Australian mental health initiative for primary schools and early childhood education and care services) offers some great suggestions as to who to approach – including helplines you can call for information.
What can I do to help?
Read the information about mental health problems in children below. Each resource offers advice on a range of issues.
You can then read more general information for parents who experience mental illness in the ‘Helping my child and family’ section of this website.
- KidsMatter: How mental health difficulties affect children (0-5)
- Parenting strategies: Preventing depression and anxiety in children 0-5 and 12-17 years
- Headspace: information for parents and families
- YouthBeyondBlue: Depression and anxiety in young people – information for parents
- SANE Australia Checklist pamphlet: Something is not quite right
- YouthBeyondBlue: Suicide – knowing the signs and when to get help
- KidsMatter website information and info sheets for families on supporting child mental health, at primary school and in early childhood settings
- The Raising Children Network – A resource on all aspects on parenting and anxiety problems and disorders in children
- beyondblue and Headspace – sections for parents. (Other youth websites also have parent’s sections)
I felt like my illness had taken absolutely everything from me. I was angry with this illness and probably still am.
I worry about my daughter. I worry about the effects this is having on her. I worry about my son. Why did I get so sick?
Sam, WA mum