Whether your child deals with major depression or is likely to become stressed easily, it’s important to help them care for their mental health all along the spectrum.

Starting the conversation about feelings and building a trusting relationship with your child early on is essential to continuing a pattern of self-care and mental health awareness. Here’s how Mark Bryant, therapist and program manager at The Centers for Youth & Families, recommends talking to your child about mental health as they grow.

Ages 5-10

 Encourage kids to talk about their feelings and to express themselves in a healthy way.

It’s important for parents to be aware of risk factors and warning signs for mental health issues. Talking to your children and creating clear pathways for communication are extremely important. Ask questions when you have concerns and build trusting relationships. Encourage your children to come to you with issues and questions they have. Answer these questions in honest ways.

Social/emotional learning is important for children to identify the language they need to express themselves as well as develop appropriate social skills to interaction with others help.

Ages 11-14

Most mental health disorders start to develop during adolescence.

Issues related to anxiety and depression may become more prevalent at this age. Changes in personality, behavior, sleeping or eating habits, excessive worry or fear of losing control could all be potential warning signs. Be especially mindful of hopelessness or loss of sudden interest in activities, but remember there are normal developmental changes youth will experience.

When you have questions or concerns, ask direct questions in order to encourage and promote a safe environment for sharing.

When problems escalate or they become more than what a parent can handle it’s time to seek professional help. Additional help might be needed to when issues interrupt functioning in other areas like school, home or peer relationships.

Ages 15-18

Help teens to create supportive relationships with adults who they can talk openly and honestly with.

Give them time to practice self-care to reduce stress, which can trigger problems in mental health. Self-care and coping can look different for different people, but examples include music, art or reading.

Think of self-care as self-preservation. Self-care also includes daily habits like hygiene routines, schoolwork and healthy eating. It is not over-indulgence.

Consider setting rules about turning off electronics at a specific hour for a healthy night’s sleep: seven to eight hours each night.

Regular exercise and activity help to build resilience to stress. Even small steps like engaging in relaxing walks and stretching has been shown to help with stress.



of youth ages 12-17 in Arkansas reported suffering from at least one major depressive episode in the last year.


of youth ages 12-17 in Arkansas cope with severe major depression.


of youth ages 12-17 with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment.13.

Source: Mental Health America’s “The State of Mental Health in America” 2019 Report