Understanding children's mental health & emotional wellbeing

Common Problems

This section includes an overview of common mental health issues that students may experience such as: anxiety; Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD); depression; grief and bereavement; and suicide and self-harm.  It also includes information on general ways of promoting mental health and resilience.

When does a Difficulty become a Disorder?

Positive mental health relies upon a variety of human needs being met, such as food, shelter, physical and psychological safety, being loved, accepted and a having sense of belonging to a group, all of which in turn help a child to thrive.

It is important to bear in mind that children and young people need to be considered contextually when identifying difficulties and concerns.  Signs of difficulty in functioning, evidence of severe distress, and signs of increased risk of harm and suffering are indicators of mental health difficulty. Behaviour can be seen as operating on a continuum from what might be considered normal behaviour to that which might be viewed as abnormal in a given context. One needs to look at the duration, changes, frequency and the triggers for a specific issue.

The most widely used criteria for diagnosing a variety of mental health difficulties are those classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM-IV), or the International Classification of Diseases, 10th edition (ICD-10). For clinical diagnosis symptoms must occur over a stated period of time.