General Health

Taking care of your child’s mental health

Annsley Stoma, LCSW

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and according to research, 1 in 5 kids have a mental health disorder. Children’s Hospital is on a mission to ensure that 5 out of 5 kids with mental and behavioral health disorders receive the care and resources they need to thrive.

While some behavior problems are part of normal child development, some children can have mental and behavioral health disorders that interfere with the way they think, feel, and act. . Some children need professional help and Children’s Hospital believes that together we ensure that any child affected with mental illness can get the appropriate support leading to healthy, fulfilling lives.

Children with mental and behavioral health issues require even more support—we must make sure they are taking their medications, schedule and attend doctor’s appointments, go to therapy, manage crisis, de-escalate, maintain safety and much more.

A child’s mental health is as important as their physical health. A child who is suffering with a mental health illness needs to receive help, as mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders can affect their future wellbeing.

How do you know if your child’s problems are serious? Problems deserve attention when they are severe, lasting, or affect daily activities. You should get help if your child:

  • Is often sad, worried, or fearful
  • Has major changes in appetite or sleep needs
  • Is spending most of his or her time alone instead of with friends or family
  • Has lower grades or has become less interested in school or activities they typically enjoy
  • Is hyperactive, impulsive, or has trouble focusing
  • Is self-destructive or overly aggressive toward others

What parents and families can do to help:

  • Communicate openly and honestly, including about his or her values
  • Supervise their adolescent to facilitate healthy decision-making
  • Spend time with their adolescent enjoying shared activities
  • Become engaged in school activities and help with homework
  • Volunteer at their adolescent’s school
  • Communicate regularly with teachers and administrators
  • Schedule and attend doctor’s appointment and therapy

Where should I go for help? First, have your child see their healthcare provider. The healthcare provider will first rule out any physical health or medical conditions that could be causing the symptoms. If no physical or medical conditions are found, the provider may advise you to take your child to a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, or behavioral therapist. If your child goes to school, the school's staff (counselors, school psychologists, and teachers) may become important members of their care team.

Here at Children’s Hospital, our Behavioral Health Center is the only psychiatric program in the Gulf Coast region exclusively dedicated to treating the mental healthcare needs of children and adolescents in crisis. Children’s Hospital’s Behavioral Health Center offers both inpatient and outpatient services. The acute inpatient psychiatric unit provides a secure, structured, compassionate therapeutic environment for children who need immediate crisis stabilization for emotional, behavioral, or psychological issues. Children at the inpatient unit are provided with a variety of therapeutic interventions including talk therapy, music therapy, art therapy, and movement therapy and family sessions. The inpatient program is built around 5 core skills including communication, insight, self-regulation, resilience, and integration. The care team utilizes a holistic and eclectic therapeutic approach that is flexible and multifaceted utilizing the most effective and evidence-based methods available to address the child’s individual needs. Additionally, each child is connected to outpatient services at discharge. The outpatient clinic at Children’s Behavioral Health Center is provided to compliment inpatient care and includes assessments and treatment of psychiatric and behavioral disorders such as Autism, ADHD, and moods disturbances.

Our program is focused on teaching and empowering patients to develop healthy life skills with the goal of improving their current level of functioning and their quality of life.

We ask that you take time this month to reflect on your child’s mental health, and if there is ever a concern, don’t hesitate to seek help.

Learn more at

Annsley Stoma, LCSW

Senior Clinical Therapist