According to the Surgeon General, one in five children will have a mental healthcare issue, such as depression or anxiety, by the time he or she is 18. That’s 20 percent.

Yet many pediatricians aren’t always comfortable asking about mental health. Mental health screening should begin when children are school age, as early diagnosis and treatment can improve school performance, interaction with peers and family relationships.

Parents should be on the lookout for changes in the following areas, which may signal a mental health concern:

  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Energy level
  • Interest in favorite activities
  • Friendships
  • Grades
  • Grooming

Parents sometimes believe that adolescence is supposed to be turbulent and that children are supposed to be miserable. While adolescence is certainly a period of change, it shouldn’t be a consistently awful time. Just like people refer to the ‘terrible twos’ of toddler years, by and large, it should be a happy time, with some challenges mixed in. If that’s not the case, mental health screenings should be considered.


Adelaide Robb Adelaide Robb, MD, is the Chief of the Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, specializing in pediatric mood disorders, schizophrenia and post traumatic stress disorder. She is an internationally known clinical researcher and has participated in and led multiple therapeutic trials for children with a variety of behavioral and psychiatric conditions.

Related Content

Lonely sad boy at home
Sad boy sitting near the window
sad boy sitting down
dad talking to teen son
people in quarantine
mother comforting crying teenage daughter
Sad girl eating carrot
boy crying in front of school
father talking to upset son
little boy yelling
Little boy having a tantrum
sad girl stilling in a window
Two girlfriends making heart with their hands on the street
Teen writes help in reference to the state of her mental health and suicide
Father and son talking outside
Dr. Kurt Newman with a little girl
frowny face drawn in the snow
Sad girl in striped shirt sitting on a curb.