If your child needs behavioral health support, you may wonder what to do, where to turn, and how to get help. The good news is there are many professionals in the community who can help you and your child. It may take time, persistence and patience to find the providers and care that best fit your family’s needs. You will always be your child’s biggest advocate. Here are some resources to help you get started.
Sometimes emotions and difficult experiences can feel too overwhelming for kids to handle. So you may end up in a crisis (emergency) situation in which they or others may be in danger.
What to Look for
Kids who are at risk of suicide, in particular, may show signs such as:
- mental illness/depression (frequent sadness and feelings of hopelessness/helplessness)
- bullying, peer or social pressure, public humiliation or rejection
- experiencing major loss like a death or break-up and/or exposure to violence
- withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities
- problems with school or grades
- aggressive, disruptive or impulsive behavior
- changes in eating or sleeping habits
- physical symptoms often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches and fatigue
- making direct or indirect threats or statements like “I’m going to kill myself” or “I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up again.”
- creating suicide notes and plans, which may include postings online or on social media
- making final arrangements like funeral preparations, writing a will or obituary, or giving away prized possessions
How to Help
If your child’s showing any of these red flags:
- Have a conversation with them as soon as possible. Ask if they’re considering suicide.
- Let your child know that they’re not alone — and that many people feel sad, depressed or anxious now and then, including parents.
- Provide constant supervision — don’t leave your child home alone.
- Remove from your home or lock up all weapons or firearms, prescription medications/pills, knives, tools or any other items you think might be unsafe or your child has threatened or tried to use to harm themselves.
- Seek professional help right away. That may include calling 9-1-1, going to the closest emergency department, or calling a 24-hour crisis line. Get Help Now »
Seeing your child struggle is difficult for any parent. Staying calm and providing support by being available and listening are important steps you can take right away to comfort your child.
Different kinds of behavioral health providers (like counselors, therapists and social workers) can provide therapy. They can help you and your child understand and cope with feelings, thoughts and behaviors. They may also help assess and diagnose behavioral health conditions.
You may also need to meet with a psychiatrist and/or a psychologist. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who can provide therapy and prescribe medications, if needed. A psychologist, who can also provide therapy, has a doctoral degree in clinical psychology or another specialty like counseling or education. Psychologists are also trained in performing behavioral health evaluations. That may include talking to you and your child, and doing psychological testing and evaluations.
You may need to meet with providers more than once before they can figure out what’s going on and work with you and/or your child to come up with a care plan that might work best for your child.
It’s common for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and behavioral health challenges to have trouble in school. Working with your child’s teachers and staff to understand the problem and come up with a plan can help your child feel as successful as possible.