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Supporting a child or young person with mental health needs

If you're worried about the mental health of a child or young person, it can be hard to know what to do to help them. You may also feel like you need support for yourself.

You're not alone and there are places both you and your child can turn to for help.

Understanding how a child or young person is feeling

It can be a good idea to find out more about how a child or young person might be feeling. This can help you understand how best to help them, or help them find ways to support themselves.

You can read more about how a child or young person might be feeling in our advice about mental health for parents and carers or find out more about mental health conditions.

The charity YoungMinds also has lots of information for parents including:

These include tips on how to talk to your child about their mental health.

The Charlie Waller Trust also has a directory of information for parents.

Getting professional help

It can be difficult to know when and how to get professional support for your child.

If your child is feeling low or anxious for a prolonged period of time, or if you have any serious concerns about how your child is feeling or acting, you may want to seek professional help.

As a first step, you may find it helpful to speak to:

  • someone you trust at school or college – for example, a teacher, school nurse, mental health lead or special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO)
  • a GP
  • a health visitor (for children up to 5 years)

They can tell you what support is available in your area and put you in touch with children and young people's mental health services.

If you think your child needs help immediately, find out where to get urgent help.

Children and young people's mental health services

Children and young people's mental health services are a range of services for anyone under 18 (or under 25 in some areas), including very young children, who are struggling with their mental health. 

You may also hear these called children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

They cover a range of mental health needs and provide treatment and support including talking therapies such as counselling, family therapy and medicines.

A child or young person under 16 may need consent from a parent or carer to get help from these services, but not always.

In some areas, and for some services, you or your child can self-refer, but you might need to get a referral through a school, college, GP or other professionals working with children such as a youth worker or social worker.

Find out more about:

Get support for yourself

Looking after a child with mental health issues is not easy and it's important you look after yourself as well as your child.

Support for you

There are a number of organisations you can go to for support and information as a parent or carer.

YoungMinds offers free confidential online and telephone advice and emotional support to anyone worried about a child or young person up to the age of 25.

  • call the free parents' helpline on 0808 802 5544 from 9.30am to 4pm, Monday to Friday
  • email and YoungMinds will respond within 3 working days

The Anna Freud Centre has an information hub for parents and carers including advice on looking after yourself.

Every Mind Matters provides information for parents and carers on looking after a young person's mental health

MindEd for families is an online e-portal offering free, simple advice about children and young people's mental health for all adults.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists' information for parents and young people include mental health information tailored for young people, parents, teachers and carers.

The Charlie Waller Trust has a directory of information for parents.

Connect with others

Many parents find it helpful to speak to other parents and carers supporting children with mental health issues.

The Charlie Waller Trust's PLACE parent support network includes information on local and online support groups

You can also ask your local children and young people's mental health services if they

Look after your own mental health

It's also important to get support for your own mental health if you need it. Find out about mental health and what support is available for you.

Charities that can support your child

Find out about charity support for children and young people's mental health.

Page last reviewed: 19 July 2023
Next review due: 19 July 2026