Children’s Behavioral Health Resources

Children’s Mental Health Matters

Just as you can help prevent a child from catching a cold or breaking a bone, we can help prevent a child from having mental health problems. We know what it takes to keep a child physically healthy—nutritious food, exercise, immunizations - but the basics for good mental health aren’t always as clear. The first “basic” is to know that children’s mental health matters. We need to treat a child’s mental health just like we do their physical health, by giving it thought and attention and, when needed, professional help.

Children's Mental Health Matters Factsheet (PDF)

Mental Health Promotion

Promoting a child’s mental health means helping a child feel secure, relate well with others and foster their growth at home and at school. We do this by helping to build a child’s confidence and competence - the foundation of strong self-esteem. This can be achieved by providing a child with a safe and secure home; warmth and love; respect; caring and trusting relationships with family, friends, and adults in the community; opportunities to talk about experiences and feelings; time to play, learn, and succeed; encouragement and praise; and consistent and fair expectations with clear consequences for misbehavior.

Know the Signs

If there is concern that a child may be experiencing a mental health problem, it is important for adults to seek help from a doctor or mental health professional. Just like with physical illness, treating mental health problems early may help to prevent a more serious illness from developing in the future. Consider consulting a professional if a child you know:

  • Feels very sad, hopeless or irritable
  • Feels overly anxious or worried
  • Is scared and fearful; has frequent nightmares
  • Is excessively angry
  • Uses alcohol or drugs
  • Avoids people; wants to be alone all of the time
  • Hears voices or sees things that aren’t there
  • Can’t concentrate, sit still, or focus attention
  • Needs to wash, clean things, or perform certain rituals many times a day
  • Talks about suicide or death
  • Hurts other people or animals; or damages property
  • Has major changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Loses interest in friends or things usually enjoyed
  • Falls behind in school or earns lower grades

Unsure? Try A Mental Health Screen.

Taking a mental health screening is one of the quickest and easiest ways to determine whether you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition. 

  • The Parent Test is for parents of young people to determine if their child’s emotions, attention, or behaviors might be signs of a problem.
  • The Youth Test is for young people (age 11-17) who are concerned that their emotions, attention, or behaviors might be signs of a problem.

What Parents Can Do

  • Care for your children’s mental health just as you do for their physical health.
  • Pay attention to warning signs, and if you’re concerned there might be a problem seek professional help.
  • Let your children know that everyone experiences pain, fear, sadness, worry, and anger and that these emotions are a normal part of life; encourage them to talk about their concerns and to express their emotions.
  • Be a role model—talk about your own feelings, apologize, don’t express anger with violence, and use active problem-solving skills.
  • Encourage your children’s talents and skills, while also accepting their limitations. Celebrate your children’s accomplishments.
  • Give your children opportunities to learn and grow, including being involved in their school and community and with other caring adults and friends.
  • Think of “discipline” as a form of teaching, rather than as physical punishment; set clear expectations and be consistent and fair with consequences for misbehavior; make sure to acknowledge both positive and negative behaviors.

What Teachers Can Do

  • Think about mental health as an important component of a child being “ready to learn;” if a child is experiencing mental health problems, he or she will likely have trouble focusing in school.
  • Know the warning signs of mental illness and take note of these in your students and seek consultation from the school mental health professional when you have concerns; psychological and/or educational testing may be necessary.
  • Use the mental health professional(s) at your school as resources for: preventive interventions with students, including social skills training; education for teachers and students on mental health, crisis counseling for teachers and students following a traumatic event, and classroom management skills training for teachers.
  • Allow your students to discuss troubling events at school or in the community; encourage students to verbally describe their emotions.

What Doctors Can Do

  • Recognize that mental health is part of a child’s overall health.
  • Be informed about mental health issues in children and know the warning signs of mental illness.
  • Become familiar with mental health screening tools. Use these when a “red flag” is raised or routinely screen for illness, asking both children and parents about a child’s emotions and behaviors—especially substance use, depression symptoms, school performance, and talk of suicide.
  • Be familiar with the most effective pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatment options.
  • Make referrals for mental health care when appropriate and follow-up with parents after a referral is made.

What Children’s Behavioral Health Services Can Do

  • Assist youth and families in identifying helpful supports and services.
  • Collaborate with youth, families and other stakeholders to ensure services are accessible
  • Provide access to supportive and helpful resources focused on children’s mental health

Maine Alliance of Family Organizations(MAFO)

Maine Alliance of Family Organizations (MAFO) is a statewide alliance that formed to better serve families of children with disabilities and special health care needs, and to strengthen family voice. More information can be found here.