4 Signs Your Child May Need Mental Help

Being a parent, your children are your entire life and livelihood. The last thing you want to ever do is to watch your child suffer. Of children aged 3-17, over 16 million have been diagnosed with ADHD, behavioral problems, anxiety or depression in the United States. And among children living below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, more than 1 in 5 children had a mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. In West Virginia alone, an estimated 278,734 West Virginians lived in poverty in 2019, for a total poverty rate of 16 percent. There is an ever-growing need for support and information about children and mental health. How do you know when your child needs mental help? Continue reading to learn about four signs your child may need mental help.


There are many more than just four signs that your child may be struggling mentally. We will highlight some of the more common signs below. But first, here are many different signs that you may need to seek help for your child (these signs can range from 2-17 years old):

  • Acting out of character, whether it be persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, constant anger, or persistent worry, anxiety or fearfulness
  • Overreacting to situations
  • Overly occupied with physical illness or their appearance
  • Fear that someone is controlling their mind, that they feel “out of control” or hearing voices that aren’t there
  • A sudden, unexplained drop in grades at school
  • A loss of interest in activities and hobbies that were once enjoyed
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Preferring to be alone
  • Expressing thoughts of harming themselves or suicide
  • Inability to concentrate, think clearly, make decisions or inability to sit still
  • Performing routines obsessively throughout the day, such as washing hands or cleaning things
  • Experiencing regular nightmares
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Dieting obsessively, or experiencing eating disorders 
  • Taking part in violent acts such as setting fires or killing animals


One of the biggest signs you may notice in your child if they are struggling mentally are the changes in their behavior, inside and outside of the home. Some of these biggest changes outside of the home are grades suddenly decreasing, complaints from teachers about behavioral issues, lack of interest in sports or extracurricular activities and difficulty concentrating or sitting still. Other changes in behavior that may become more noticeable around the house are isolation, weird shifts in eating and sleeping habits, lack of care towards hygiene and other out-of-character behaviors.


Parents sometimes shrug off their child’s mood or personality changes as being hormonal. While some moodiness is normal in young adults, it is abnormal if these changes happen rapidly and without reason.

Some emotional changes may allude to your child having mental struggles. Again, most children do have off-days, but it is important to note that if the frequency of the emotions changing can determine if the changes are serious. Things like being aggressive and angry or irritable, sadness, depression or hopelessness, overly sensitive or overly quiet and isolated emotions can all point to mental health issues.


Self-harm or violence may seem like a no-brainer reason for getting mental help, but people, especially children, are very good at hiding violence, especially self-harm. If you hear or see increased violence in your child, such as hitting kids at school, being overly aggressive towards friends and or family, violent towards the family pet or other animals, or else, it is important to seek help before things continue to get worse or spiral out of control. 

Other signs to look for include saying violent things, increase in knowledge or questions about guns and weapons or killing and death, cutting marks on the body, especially on the wrists and arms (which are typically hidden by wearing long sleeves, including in the warmer months), missing house-hold medications and prescriptions, eating (or lack of) and binging afterward and more.


While worrying and sadness can be normal, especially during life transitions and changes, when these emotions become excessive and begin to consume your child and their thoughts, that is when you should take a closer look. 

In some cases, this worry can be seen as a child having the fear that they can’t control themselves or their mind. They may feel that someone or something else is controlling them. They may have difficulties concentrating, which can lead to worry and frustration. Sometimes, children may hear voices or other outside influences that do not exist that can also cause excessive worrying. 


If your child is experiencing any of the signs listed above or multiple signs combined, it is better to be safe than sorry and reach out for help. Unfortunately, sometimes parents may not always notice these changes in their children. If you are a bi-stander or witness or play a significant role in a child’s life and believe they may be experiencing mental health difficulties, please, speak up. 

At Burlington United Methodist Family Services, Inc., we have been serving the families of West Virginia for over 100 years. We have dedicated ourselves to changing lives by providing hope and healing to those who are hurting. If your child or a child you know may be experiencing mental health issues and is struggling, please reach out to us. Sometimes, children need professional help in their journey to healing. If you have any questions, please contact us at 304-260-5884 or foundation@bumfs.org.


“For I know what I have planned for you,” says the Lord. “I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.” — Jeremiah 29:11