Does my child or teenager need mental health support?

By HBF

4 minutes

04 October 2021

A young mum hugging her pre-teen daughter

How do you know what’s just part of growing up, and when a child might need some extra support?


In this article


Good mental health is important for kids’ wellbeing. It can help them cope with challenges, feel good about themselves, build relationships and enjoy life.1

Around one in seven Australian kids experiences mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. In fact, half of all mental health issues we experience in adulthood begin before the age of 14.2

So how do you know what’s just part of growing up, and when a child might need some extra support? 

Signs a child might need mental health support

As children and teenagers grow up, they go through a lot of changes – and that can come with emotional ups and downs.3

At any age, it can be normal for kids to feel sad, upset or angry at times.1

But if these feelings are more frequent and a child is finding it difficult to cope, it may be a sign they could use some extra help.

A few common signs a child might need mental health support could include:4 5

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness or worry that don’t go away
  • Feeling tired, irritable or upset most of the time
  • Frequent, unexplained temper tantrums
  • Unusual fears
  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Losing interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Not wanting to go to school
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Changes in eating patterns, or rapid weight gain or loss
  • Loss of interest or decline in school performance

What support is available?

A good first step is to talk to your GP. They can give you some helpful information and refer you to a mental health professional if needed.6

A child and adolescent psychologist can help young people manage mental health problems and learn ways of coping with difficult life challenges – like stress, grief, or relationship issues. 7

Psychologists use a range of evidence-based psychotherapies (or talk therapies), to help work on changing thoughts, feelings and behaviours. 

For more serious mental health issues, your GP might refer you to a child and adolescent psychiatrist.6

Psychiatrists are medical doctors with specialised training in complex mental health conditions. Unlike psychologists, they can prescribe medication if needed.6

How can you help your child?

A mental health professional can also suggest some ways that you can help support your child and encourage self-care strategies at home.6

A few things that may help include:

  • Spending quality time together. Loving and secure relationships are important for a child’s development. Doing enjoyable activities together can benefit the whole family.1   
  • Talking openly. Regularly ask your child how they’re feeling. Encourage them to talk about what’s going on for them and listen to their concerns.6
  • Exercise. Getting moving can help improve your mental health, reducing stress and boosting your mood and energy.8
  • Healthy eating. A healthy diet can help support your mental health. Help your child develop and maintain healthy eating habits with a well-balanced diet.9
  • Sleep. Getting enough good quality sleep is important for mental health – so encouraging good night-time routines and relaxation before bed may help.10
  • Relaxation techniques. Try teaching your child some simple relaxation techniques, like breathing exercises.11
  • Routines. Keeping to regular routines around bedtime or mealtimes can help create an environment that feels secure and stable.6

Looking after yourself

When your child is having a difficult time, it can be stressful for parents.

Remember that it’s important to look after yourself as well. Try some of the self-care strategies above and reach out to friends and family.

If you need extra support, seeing a counsellor or psychologist yourself can also be a helpful way to help manage your thoughts and feelings.6

How can HBF help with kids’ mental health?

At HBF, we know how important your family’s mental health is.

  • HBF extras cover can give you benefits towards visits with a psychologist or clinical psychologist, up to your annual limit.
  • HBF hospital cover can pay benefits for hospital psychiatric services to treat mental health conditions. 

Find out more about HBF mental health cover and how it could help you and your family.

 
Explore HBF mental health cover

Find health cover that includes mental health services, for extra support when you need it most.

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Sources:

  1. 1healthdirect – Kids and mental health (2019)
  2. 2Beyond Blue – Mental health conditions in children
  3. 3Raising Children – Moods: helping pre-teens and teens manage emotional ups and downs (2021)
  4. 4Beyond Blue – What to look for – ages 6-12
  5. 5Beyond Blue – What to look for – age 13+
  6. 6Better Health Channel – Helping your child with mental illness
  7. 7Raising Children – Psychologist
  8. 8healthdirect – Exercise and mental health (2019)
  9. 9healthdirect – Food, drink and mental health (2021)
  10. 10headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation – Sleeping well for a healthy headspace (2021)
  11. 11healthdirect – Relaxation (2019)

Disclaimer:

This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.