Children’s Mental Health – Signs of Mental Illness

Family Life

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Did you know that 1 in 5 children in Ontario struggles with mental health issues?

Overall, more than 70% of adults who struggle with mental health concerns began to have difficulty in childhood.

Early intervention and access to mental health resources during childhood have the potential to change the trajectory of a child’s health and wellness.

Early identification and mental health care can lead to improved academic and social achievement in school and in life.


Does my child have mental health issues?

Every child and adult will struggle at times with anger, or sadness, or negative feelings. These feelings are normal and can be part of normal child development. However, suppose negative moods, thoughts, or behaviors interfere with school, social, or home life. In that case, it’s best to discuss with your health care provider.

We worry about mental health issues if they are intense, persistent impairing the child’s everyday function, or cause significant distress for the child or parent.


Signs of mental illness in children

Signs of mental illness in children include:

  • Changes in academic performance
  • Decreased interest in socialization
  • Avoiding family or friends
  • Finding less joy in previously enjoyed activities
  • Sleeping more often or difficulty sleeping
  • Eating more often or more volume, or significantly less
  • Frequent outbursts of anger
  • Crying more frequently
  • Rebelling against authority
  • Drinking alcohol or drug abuse
  • Excessive worry or anxiety
  • Obsessions or compulsions
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Lack of concern for physical appearance or hygiene
  • Less motivation or decreased ability to concentrate


“It is important to remain attuned to your children’s mental health. Changes should trigger a visit with your health care provider to ensure early detection and treatment.”


Mental health disorders in children

The most common mental health disorders in children include:

  • Mood disorders like depression
  • Anxiety
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder


What to do if you have concerns?

It is always best to trust your instincts as a parent.

If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, please discuss them with your child’s health care provider.

We all experience changes in moods once in a while. Still, if you are concerned that it is persistent, out of character, or impairing your child’s daily function, it is best to review.

Try to discuss any concerns your child may have.

Encourage an open-ended conversation, with less questioning from you and more listening to your child. Perhaps you will learn more from your child than you could even predict.

If you have any safety concerns, please discuss them with your physician immediately, or seek urgent care in an emergency room.


What are some mental health resources?

Depending on where you live, there are various mental health resources available to help your child and your family.

Mental health professionals include psychiatrists, psychotherapists, psychologists, social workers, and behavioral therapists. Some family physicians and pediatricians provide mental health care to children and families as well.

Discuss available options with your healthcare provider.

If you live in Ontario, these resources are available to you:

 In Canada these resources are available:




Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Written By: Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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