Mental health challenges often start as vague, subtle changes and this can make it difficult to tell if there is something going on. To complicate matters, a young person may wrestle with their difficulties for some time and not tell anyone. To others, they appear to be doing well. On the inside, they may be distressed, confused and scared.

Below are some signs that a young person may be struggling and need support:

  • Reduced interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Persistent low mood
  • Worries much of the time
  • Very anxious when around other people   
  • Irritable and easily frustrated
  • Expresses feelings of worthlessness and uselessness  
  • Has trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Withdrawn from family and friends; spends considerable amount of time alone
  • School performance has dropped or they are not attending school
  • Change in eating habits or preoccupation with weight
  • Feels tired all the time and has no energy  
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Complains of headaches, nausea or other physical symptoms (that are not linked to a physical health problem)
  • Engaging in self-injuring behaviours
  • Beginning or increasing substance use
  • Expresses odd beliefs that don’t seem to have any basis in reality*
  • Appears at times to be talking to someone but there is no one there*

*Seek professional advice if you observe these last two signs. They may be indications of emerging psychosis. 

Keep in mind that the signs listed above do not always mean that a person is struggling with a mental health challenge. Mental health challenges are typically characterized by:

  • A pattern of changes
  • Changes that persist or increase in severity over time
  • Distress
  • Decline in functioning (such as school or work, relationships with family and friends, recreational activities)