The 8 Most Common Signs of Mental Illness in Youth and What You Can Do

Mental health is one of the most important aspects of human life. It is a state of emotional and psychological well-being. Mental health illnesses began in early childhood. Much like a child’s physical and medical needs, their mental health is just as important. There are signs and steps a parent can take to improve the mental health of their child. 

In this section, we will talk about the various signs of mental illness in youth. 

Sign 1: Mood Swings: Mood swings are a common symptom of depression in youth.

Sign 2: Feeling Sad or Down: Feeling sad or down is a common symptom of depression.

Sign 3: Loss of Interest in Activities: Losing interest in activities is a common symptom of depression.

Sign 4: Sleeping Too Much or Not Enough: Sleeping too much or not enough is a common symptom of depression.

Sign 5: Changes in Appetite and/or Weight: Changes in appetite and weight can be symptoms of depression, as well as other mental health disorders.

Sign 6: Relationship Problems: Let’s dive a bit into social anxiety. Social anxiety is a condition that affects people in different ways. It can be characterized by the fear of being judged by others, or the fear of embarrassing oneself in front of other people.

Some signs that someone may have social anxiety are:

– Feeling self-conscious about what other people think about them

– Fear of public speaking

– Fear of meeting new people

– Feeling shy around others

– Being very self-conscious or feeling like everyone is watching you

Sign 7: Lack of Interest/Apathy: A lack of interest in things that the person used to enjoy is a sign of depression.

This is one of the most common symptoms of depression. When people are depressed, they often lose interest in activities they used to enjoy. They may also have less energy and feel more tired than usual.

Sign 8: Impulse Behavior: Impulse behavior is the tendency to act impulsively and without thinking about what the consequences will be. Youth with this symptom often engage in behaviors that are risky, such as substance use, inadequate physical activity, tobacco use, sexual behaviors, unhealthy dietary behaviors, and behaviors that contribute to unintentional violence and injuries gambling, spending money, or having unsafe sex (CDC.Gov). Impulsive behavior may also manifest itself in other areas of life such as relationships or work.

Impulse behaviors can at times be difficult to manage and control. Some youth may have difficulty differentiating between wants and needs and may engage in risky behaviors to fulfil their desires. Impulsivity can lead to problems at school, home, or other areas for those who have it.

Ways to Promote a Youth’s Mental Health

There are a variety of ways to help foster your child’s mental health. 

1.     Build Trust. A solid trusting relationship helps a child feel safe and secure. Your child wants to know you can keep them safe, healthy, and that you love them. 

2.     Be Consistent. Children crave structure and routine. Help your child manage their emotions by involving them in decision making. Chaos and inconsistency potentially create difficulty with emotional regulation, social skills/competence, risky behaviors, and conduct problems, to name few. 

3.     Take Care of Yourself. Model healthy habits so your child will know how to manage stressful situations or anxiety provoking environments.

4.     Model Healthy Relationships. Give your child the opportunity to connect with others outside their home (cousins, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents, neighbors). 

5.     Be Cognizant of Your Child. Watch for mood and behavior changes in your child. You know your child best and if they exhibit any of the signs listed above or other changes (for a significant amount of time), consider reaching out to their doctor, school mental health professional, or other community resource. 

6.     Develop Self Esteem. Practice positive self-talk with your child. Provide opportunities for your child to demonstrate competence, such as cooking a bag of microwave popcorn, or selection their dress or tuxedo for prom. More importantly, praise your child.

7.     Make Time for Play. Put away your personal obligations and make time to laugh and play with your child.

8.     Seek Professional Help. As a mental health professional, I often encourage counseling. Counseling can help improve your child’s mental health, as well as the family (if all are attending). It’s never too early to introduce mental health providers to children. Much like some parents, children also benefit from support.

Conclusion: Mental Illness in Youth and What You Can Do

Mental health issues are prevalent in the youth population, and it is important for them to know that they are not alone. Mental illness in youth can be caused by many factors, including genetics, environmental influences, and brain development. Mental health issues can lead to a wide range of symptoms that differ from person to person. It is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of these symptoms so they can help their children or teens get the support needed.

There are a number of resources available for parents and caregivers who want to help their child or teen struggling with a mental illness, but don’t know where to start. Here is a brief overview of resources to consider: books on mental illness aimed at a young audience, online forums for people suffering from mental illness, and websites that offer advice on how best to cope with mental illness in youth

Feel free to check out the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for additional information and resources. 

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