Mental Health Support for Young People


  1. How do you know if your child needs support with their mental health?
  2. How can you help a young person with mental illness?
  3. When to seek professional help for a child with mental health problems
  4. What services are available to help parents of children and young people with emotional or mental health problems?

Although it can be scary when your child gets hurt or falls ill, the right course of action is usually pretty clear: you take them to your GP or to Accident and Emergency.

On the other hand, when your child is suffering mental health problems it can be really difficult to know where to start dealing with the problem. Sometimes it’s hard even admitting there is a problem in the first place!

In 2020, a shocking 1 in 6 children between 5 and 19 suffered from mental health problems. So, while most children thankfully do not experience mental issues, it’s worth knowing how to handle the situation if you ever have to face it. Read on to find out our tips on helping your child through difficult times and how to get support for you both.

teenage girl with mental health problems

How do you know if your child needs support with their mental health?


Sometimes things happen in your kids' lives that will get them down or upset them, it can be hard for you to watch them go through these episodes, but they soon get over them. It’s all part of growing up. 

Signs your child may have mental health problems ⚠️

However, if your child starts showing any of these behaviours perhaps it’s time to pay closer attention:

  • Becoming quieter and more withdrawn
  • Experiencing continuing sleep problems  
  • Lacking enthusiasm for their favourite activities
  • Harming themselves
  • Taking more risks
  • Showing other drastic behavioural changes


How can you help a young person with mental illness?


The first thing to do is to talk to your child about what they might be going through. On the face of it that sounds like a simple task, but taking a direct approach may not work and your kid could clam up. 

How to talk to a child with mental health issues 💬

Here are some strategies to consider:

  • You could start with open questions like asking them what was the best or worst part of their day or ask them if there is anything they would like to talk about.
  • Tell them they can talk to you about anything at a time they feel comfortable.
  • Let them know they can talk to you via chat, text, or a letter if they find that easier.
  • If they’re still reluctant to talk, encourage them to draw pictures of what they’re feeling, thinking, or worrying about.
  • Doing something they enjoy can be an easy and effective way to lift their spirits, reinforce the parent-child bond, and provide a relaxed environment for them to feel safe to open up.

How to support a child with mental health issues 👩‍👦

  • When they do start to talk, the most important thing is to listen. Give them your full attention and the time and space to fully express things that might be painful or difficult for them to put into words.
  • Remember to be calm and patient so they find you approachable. 
  • Don’t let them see you become angry, afraid, or upset at what they’re telling you, it may stop them from being open in the future.
  • Remind them that you love them, that their feelings are important and you want them to be happy.
  • Try to accept and understand what they feel and don’t treat it as a personal attack on your abilities as a parent.
  • Resist the urge to offer quick solutions until you are sure they have explained everything.
  • Regularly follow up on the first conversation by asking them how they’re feeling and if they want to talk about anything. 
  • Make sure they have the time and opportunity to spend time with their friends. Varied relationships are essential human needs and it is easy for people with mental illness to become isolated and lonely.
  • Enforce a set bedtime. Children need routine and sleeping well can be very important for emotional and mental well-being.
  • If their behaviour is a problem, don’t criticise the child as a person but focus on the specific behaviour. For example, don’t complain that they are messy, explain to them that not tidying up things or taking more care are unhelpful, and ask them to remember to put things away when they’re finished and to be more careful in the future. Let them know clearly what behaviours are or are not acceptable and be consistent about sticking to the rules you set.
  • Remember you might need someone to talk to as well. Depending on the circumstances you may find yourself dealing with a lot and it’s important to look after your own mental and emotional well being too.


When to seek professional help for a child with mental health problems


Often with time, patience, encouragement and understanding, children can find their way out of emotional problems like anxiety or depression. 

However, if it’s taking more than a few weeks or you suspect there is something more complicated going on and the problem is interfering with their daily lives then it’s probably a good idea to consult a child mental health worker or support organization. 

If you suspect your child is at risk of serious harm you should contact one of the services below immediately.


What services are available to help parents of children and young people with emotional or mental health problems? 


Your first port of call could be your GP, health visitor, or a teacher at your child’s school. These professionals should have a good understanding of the services available locally. 

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services (CYPMHS) includes all the health and social care workers that deal with kids experiencing mental health issues. The help available depends on where you live. Click here to search by your town, city or postcode.

Services for mental health issues are stretched very thin. While there was a 35% rise in the number of cases referred to children’s mental health services between 2019 and 2020, three-quarters of young people do not get the treatment they need. Unless your child is in immediate danger, it may be a while before they can be provided with a treatment programme. 

Don’t worry! There are many charities out there that can help both you and your child in the meantime.

Young Minds provides advice and support for children and parents and they offer different ways to get in touch with them.

Young Minds

Young Minds Crisis Messenger

Text YM to 85258


0808 802 5544 (Mon–Fri 9.30am-4pm)

Parents email service

(Mon–Fri  4pm-9:30am, also open weekends)

Webchat service

(Mon–Fri 9.30am-4pm)


The Royal College of Psychiatrists has a huge amount of resources for parents of children with mental health issues. Click here to access their support pages. 

What services are available to young people?

If you haven’t been able to convince your child to talk to you or if you need to give them an extra outlet, they can talk to Childine’s trained advisors. 

There are many ways they can contact Childline confidentially:



0800 1111

1-to-1 online chat

Childline secure email

Talk to other young people on Childline message boards

Sign video for hearing impaired children


Papyrus (Prevention of Young Suicide) is an advice and support organization dedicated to helping children at serious risk of self-harm. Get in touch with them via phone, text, or email:


Every Day 9am to 12am (midnight)


0800 068 41 41


07860 039967


These are just some of the independent support organizations ready to help. Click here for a longer list of the help available for mental health issues. 

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