Children’s Mental Health: Recognising the Signs

Guest author, Alice Porter shares some insightful tips to help us recognise the signs of undiagnosed mental health issues in our young ones (sadly, something that I come across within my work as a counsellor). Alice, who is passionate about raising awareness of children’s mental health issues, is a writer for Lorimer Fostering and shares some great tips to help with recognising the ‘signs’.

So many children with mental health problems are left undiagnosed each year, and their symptoms are mistaken for misbehaviour. Between the ages of 5 and 16, 1 in 10 children suffer from a diagnosable health disorder, which is the equivalent of 3 children in every classroom. Children’s mental health recognition is one that we should all possess and below I have outlined some of the biggest warning signs we should look out for.


Undiagnosed mental health issues, and their symptoms, can be mistaken for misbehaviour.


Behavioural Changes and Lack of Concentration

Children are going to go through a phase of pushing the boundaries, misbehaving and acting out so they can see what they can and can’t do. This is part of growing up and learning how to behave. However, if a child continuously misbehaves (either at home or in the classroom) this could be the sign of a mental health illness. If a child seems out of control, or their behaviour has drastically changed, then this is a big red flag and a key indicator of mental health problems. The most identifiable symptoms are:

  • frequently fighting and being aggressive
  • continuously being distracting in class
  • loss of interest for school work
  • the desire to hurt other people

Children often have uncontrollable bursts of emotion and misbehave as an outlet. It’s important to remain patient and understanding when dealing with a child who is displaying these symptoms, as shouting at them can lead to them feeling more isolated and misunderstood.


It’s important to remain patient and understanding when dealing with a child.


Intense Emotions and Mood Swings

Mood swings and intense emotions are similar to behavioural changes and should be treated with the same level of sensitivity. Some of the key symptoms are:

  • erratic mood swings
  • tantrums
  • overwhelmed feelings (anything from bursting into tears to having panic attacks)

Seeking professional help, and counselling, for the child can be an effective outlet and will help them to better understand their emotions.

Self-Destructive Behaviour

Mental health conditions can make a child feel lost, alone and unable to talk about how they think and feel – which is why they turn to self-harm and substance abuse. Self-harm can be anything from a child cutting or burning themselves. Self-harm often goes unnoticed and unthought-of, so it is important to be sensitive and check for any indicators as these actions need to be dealt with swiftly. Children who take these drastic measures, are using their actions as a form of escapism; they will feel isolated, misunderstood and confused, so it is important to treat carefully and correctly. Consult with a professional and also suggest counselling as a way of your child talking through their feelings and actions.


Mental health conditions can make a child feel lost, alone and unable to talk about how they feel.


Recognise the Signs

It’s easier to recognise the signs, and symptoms, for mental illness in your own child. If a child is displaying any of the above symptoms, and has drastically altered the way they behave and react to situations, then don’t ignore the signs! Where you’re a teacher, a foster carer or a childminder, remember to be extremely sensitive to the situation and seek professional advice to ensure the child’s wellbeing and safety.

Anglia Counselling specialises in childhood emotional neglect (CEN) and all too often sees clients, as adults, suffering anxiety, depression and low self-esteem as a result of CEN. As parents, we implore you to take Alice’s points to heart knowing it can make a world of difference to the child in the long-term. – Bob Brotchie

See: Childhood Emotional Neglect and How the Adult Feels Today

About the author
Managing Director / Counsellor at Anglia Counselling Ltd | 07747042899 | [email protected] | Business Website

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).