Knowing the time to seek help


We have been receiving many questions from people negotiating mental health difficulties. Here is another:

“How do we know it when we see it or feel it and what do we do?”

This is an important question because often parents of children with mental health difficulties feel they should wait to seek treatment until their kids can’t handle things on their own anymore. This is often the desire of the children, too.

But how will I know when I should seek help for my child?

First, it’s always okay to seek help—even if you’re not sure whether your child is experiencing a specific mental health problem. It is a good exercise for children to be taught that they can ask for help—for any problem, including a mental health difficulty. Almost everyone can benefit from receiving professional help at some point in their lives.

However, it might be time to reach out to someone when your child is having trouble managing, he or she is overwhelmed, or when their thoughts and feelings are limiting their daily functioning. There are a wide range of signs to look for, and if your child is feeling any or a combination of the following things, it might time to talk to a professional:

  • Feeling intensely sad, angry or otherwise “not yourself.” Sometimes the signs are obvious but at other times, something may feel slightly off and you can’t figure out what it is.
  • Substance abuse such as alcohol, drugs or food
  • Loss: of someone or something important to your child
  • Something traumatic happened, and your child cannot seem to stop thinking about it
  • Your child has unexplained and recurrent headaches, stomachaches or a rundown immune system
  • Your child is getting negative feedback at school or from work
  • Your child feels disconnected from previously enjoyed activities
  • Your relationship with your child is strained
  • Your friends and family have told you they’re concerned

For more information about when to get help, visit Mental Health America.


How do I know when my child might need help?

Mental Health America lists some of the different signs in adolescents and young adults and older adults for when it’s time to seek mental health treatment. The list can help you recognize signs for yourself, and also for others. put together a similar list for when someone might be showing signs of a mental health problem. Early warning signs include:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from those around them and their usual activities
  • Substance abuse
  • Yelling or fighting with friends and family
  • Problems in relationships
  • Have difficulty completing daily tasks (like getting to school or work)

Parents of children with mental health difficulties struggle to accept that they cannot control their child’s behavior. But how have you discerned your child may need extra help? How have you talked with your child about their getting treatment? … It can help others and ourselves, too, when we share our own experiences, so please share your experiences below!

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