Mental health information

Mental health and wellbeing in children (3–11 years)

Children whose mental health and wellbeing are on track are able to manage the ups and downs of their lives. They will still experience emotional challenges and feelings of sadness, worry and fear. These emotions are a normal part of growing up. An emotionally healthy child will be able to bounce back from these challenges, feel good about themselves, get along with others and experience joy.

Children are usually developing well when they enjoy:

  • being with others in their family,
  • being with friends and other children their age,
  • playing and attending school*.

Children can have problems with their mental health and wellbeing at different times in their lives. When a child’s mental health is off track, it can often be seen by changes in behaviour. Things like withdrawal, tearfulness, sleep problems, irritability, disobedience, excessive worry, and difficulties with friends, family or at school, might indicate that a child is struggling with their mental health.

Support from parents, carers, families and other caring adults like teachers and health care workers, are essential to supporting a child’s mental health and wellbeing. Showing interest in your child, listening to them, talking to them, and trying to notice any changes in behaviour will all help. Physical health is important too as it has a direct influence on mental health. Therefore good sleep, nutritious food and physical activity play a vital role in keeping a child’s mental health and wellbeing on track.

Sometimes children and their families or carers need extra help to get back on track. Getting help early can help things to get sorted out quickly. Talking to a trusted health professional can help you decide the best course of action.

There are many useful websites that provide general information on topics like child development and mental health.  One of these is the Raising Children website

*Parenting SA Parent Easy Guides “Children’s Mental Health”

Mental health and wellbeing in young people (12-18 years)

Mental health is only one part of a young person’s overall health and wellbeing. Similar to feeling physically healthy or unwell, it is normal for a young person to experience ups and downs in their mental health. Sometimes they may feel mentally healthy and other times they may feel like things are a bit off track. Mental health is about how a young person feels, thinks, behaves and acts.

Mental health includes:

  • how a young person feels about themselves and their life
  • how a young person responds to stress
  • how a young person copes with problems that come up
  • a young person’s self-esteem or confidence
  • how a young person sees themselves and their future*.

When a young person’s mental health gets off track, they will notice changes in the areas listed above or they might have difficulties at home, with friends or at school. A young person might feel or think differently about themselves, have difficulty managing the usual ups and downs of life or feel less hopeful about themselves or their future. These can be signs that a young person might need help with their mental health.

There are different things that can be done to keep a young person’s mental health and wellbeing on track. Things that can help include:

  • eating nutritious food
  • getting a good night’s sleep
  • exercising
  • learning skills to manage stress
  • relaxing
  • spending time with friends and family.

At times a young person’s mental health may feel like it’s off track and no matter what they try, they can’t seem to feel alright about themselves and what’s happening in life. They may be too tired, confused or overwhelmed to try anything. At these times, getting some additional support from a mental health professional can be helpful. Mental health professionals are trained in working with people who have mental health difficulties and will work with you to get things back on track. Getting help early can mean that things get sorted out faster.

There are many useful websites that provide general information about supporting teenagers through everyday issues and tough times. One of these is the ReachOut Parents website

*Women’s and Children’s Health Network Young Adult Health “Mental Health”