Behavioral Signs & Management

  • Warning Signs of Mental Health Conditions in Children

    According to the National Institute of Mental Health, it can be tough to tell if troubling behavior in a child is just part of growing up or a problem that should be discussed with a health professional. But if there are behavioral signs and symptoms that last weeks or months, and if these issues interfere with the child’s daily life at home and at school, or with friends, you should contact a health professional.

    Young children may benefit from an evaluation and treatment if they:

    • Have frequent tantrums or are intensely irritable much of the time
    • Often talk about fears or worries
    • Complain about frequent stomachaches or headaches with no known medical cause
    • Are in constant motion and cannot sit quietly (except when they are watching videos or playing videogames)
    • Sleep too much or too little, have frequent nightmares, or seem sleepy during the day
    • Are not interested in playing with other children or have difficulty making friends
    • Struggle academically or have experienced a recent decline in grades
    • Repeat actions or check things many times out of fear that something bad may happen.

    Older children and adolescents may benefit from an evaluation if they:

    • Have lost interest in things that they used to enjoy
    • Have low energy
    • Sleep too much or too little, or seem sleepy throughout the day
    • Are spending more and more time alone, and avoid social activities with friends or family
    • Fear gaining weight, or diet or exercise excessively
    • Engage in self-harm behaviors (e.g., cutting or burning their skin)
    • Smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs
    • Engage in risky or destructive behavior alone or with friends
    • Have thoughts of suicide
    • Have periods of highly elevated energy and activity, and require much less sleep than usual
    • Say that they think someone is trying to control their mind or that they hear things that other people cannot hear.

    Click here to take the Child Mind Institute’s Symptom Checker if you are worried about your child’s mental health.

  • Warning Signs of Suicide Risk
    According to the American Association of Suicidology, the following are not always communicated directly or outwardly:
    • Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and or,
    • Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
    • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.

    Click here to learn more about observable behaviors that can be red flags.

    Here’s an easy-to-remember mnemonic representing the warning signs of suicide:


    I: Ideation
    S: Substance Abuse
    P: Purposelessness
    A: Anxiety
    T: Trapped
    H: Hopelessness
    W: Withdrawal
    A: Anger
    R: Recklessness
    M: Mood Changes

    Increased Risk Factors for Suicide include:
    • History of trauma or abuse
    • Recent loss of loved one
    • Recent loss of relationship
    • Recent stressful or traumatic life event
    • Family history of suicide
    • Previous suicide attempt
    • Exposure to other teen suicides
    • Lack of adequate health care resources
    • Loneliness due to lack of a support network
    • Hostile social or school environment
    • Substance and alcohol abuse
    • Mental disorders
    • Impulsive/aggressive tendencies
    • Major physical or chronic illness/pain
    • Terminal illness
    • Easy access to lethal means
    Protective Factors
    • Effective mental health care
    • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions
    • Connectedness to individuals, family, community
    • Restricted access to lethal means
    • Skills in conflict resolution and handling issues in non-violent ways
    • Problem-solving skills
    • Contact with caregivers
    • Ability to cope with stressful situations
    Original Sources:
  • Symptoms of Teen Depression

    According to Penn State Health, one in five teenagers have depression at some point. Your teen may be depressed if they are feeling sad, blue, unhappy, or down in the dumps. Depression is a serious problem, even more so if these feelings have taken over your teen’s life.

    Your teen is more at risk for depression if:

    • Mood disorders run in your family.
    • They experience a stressful life event like a death in the family, divorcing parents, bullying, a break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or failing in school.
    • They have low self-esteem and are very critical of themselves.
    • Your teen is a girl. Teen girls are twice as likely as boys to have depression.
    • Your teen has trouble being social.
    • Your teen has learning disabilities.
    • Your teen has a chronic illness.
    • There are family problems or problems with their parents.

    If your teen is depressed, you may see some of the following common symptoms of depression. If these symptoms last for 2 weeks or longer, talk to your teen’s doctor.

    • Frequent irritability with sudden bursts of anger.
    • More sensitive to criticism.
    • Complaints of headaches, stomach aches or other body problems. Your teen may go to the nurse’s office at school a lot.
    • Withdrawal from people like parents or some friends.
    • Not enjoying activities they usually like.
    • Feeling tired for much of the day.
    • Sad or blue feelings most of the time.

    Notice changes in your teen’s daily routines that can be a sign of depression. Your teen’s daily routines can change when they are depressed. You may notice that your teen has:

    • Trouble sleeping or is sleeping more than normal
    • A change in eating habits, such as not being hungry or eating more than usual
    • A hard time concentrating
    • Problems making decisions

    Changes in your teen’s behavior may also be a sign of depression. They could be having problems at home or school:

    • Drop in school grades, attendance, not doing homework
    • High-risk behaviors, such as reckless driving, unsafe sex, or shoplifting
    • Pulling away from family and friends and spending more time alone
    • Drinking or using drugs

    Teens with depression may also have:

  • Are You Depressed?

    Complete the following assessment to see if you or someone you care about may have depression. When you’re taking the assessment, think about behaviors and moods from at least the past two weeks. The assessment is based on information from Mental Health America. Note: This assessment is not intended to be a substitute for a visit with your healthcare provider.

    Start Assessment

  • Suicide Prevention Tips

    According to Penn State Health, call a health care provider right away if you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide. The person needs mental health care right away. DO NOT dismiss the person as just trying to get attention.

    Avoiding alcohol and drugs (other than prescribed medicines) can reduce the risk of suicide.

    In homes with children or teenagers:

    • Keep all prescription medicines high up and locked.
    • DO NOT keep alcohol in the home, or keep it locked up.
    • DO NOT keep guns in the home. If you do keep guns in the home, lock them and keep the bullets separate.

    In older adults, further investigate feelings of hopelessness, being a burden, and not belonging.

    Many people who try to take their own life talk about it before making the attempt. Sometimes, just talking to someone who cares and who does not judge them is enough to reduce the risk of suicide.

    However, if you are a friend, family member, or you know someone who you think may attempt suicide, never try to manage the problem on your own. Seek help. Visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s webpage for hotline services and resources.

    Never ignore a suicide threat or attempted suicide.

    Ways to Get Immediate Help in a Crisis

Teen Health: Major Depressive Disorder

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Teen Health: Mental Health

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Mental Health - Depression, Anxiety and Medications

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Teen Health: Substance Use and Abuse

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Grounding Techniques - English


Grounding Techniques - Spanish


Teen Health: Mental Health Infographic Poster


Be Mindful Infographic Poster


Turn Your Emotions Inside Out Infographic Poster


Mindfulness Journal


Guidelines for Better Sleep (English)


Guidelines for Better Sleep (Spanish)


Teen Health: Substance Use and Abuse Infographic

How to Turn Your Emotions Inside Out Guide


CDC’s Children's Mental Health Website

Covers a broad array of topics surrounding mental health disorders in those under 18.

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Child Mind Institute’s Symptom Checker

Symptom checker that gives you an idea of possible diagnoses of your child. It is a tool that should be used to get an idea and then move on to the appropriate mental health professional. Gives resources and tips for how to approach child about their issues and how to approach a mental health professional to get them help. Also has A-Z topics for concerns and disorders of children under 18.

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Mental Health America’s Parenting Resources

Resources for parents to find programs, help, take screeners and other information regarding their child's mental health and well-being.

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National Eating Disorder Association’s Parent Toolkit

The NEDA Parent Toolkit is for anyone who wants to Learn understand more about how to support a family member or friend affected by an eating disorder. You will find answers to your insurance questions; signs, symptoms and medical consequences; information about treatment and levels of care; and questions to ask when choosing a treatment provider.

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National Institute of Mental Health’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Resources

Child and adolescent mental health resources, warning signs, latest news, videos, hotlines and live chats.

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Suicide Prevention Resource Center for Parents/Guardians/Families

Outline of resource websites that offer suicide prevention resources for parents, guardians, and other family members. The resources provide guidance on talking with your child if you think he or she may be at risk for suicide and on coping with a suicide attempt or death. A few of the resources also discuss how you can take action at the school and community levels to prevent suicide.

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