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Spotting the symptoms

The following list of potential symptoms is not exhaustive, but can be used with staff to start a conversation about what they might notice in the classroom.

  • Mood changes - look for signs of withdrawal that last at least two weeks or severe mood swings that are causing problems in relationships with peers.
  • Intense feelings - be aware if any child reports feelings of overwhelming fear for no reason - sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing - or worries or fears intense enough to interfere with daily activities.
  • Behaviour changes - these include drastic changes in behaviour and personality, as well as dangerous or out-of-control behaviour. Fighting frequently, using weapons and expressing a desire to badly hurt others also are warning signs.
  • Difficulty concentrating - look for signs of trouble focusing or sitting still, both of which might lead to poor performance in school.
  • Unexplained weight loss - a sudden loss of appetite, frequent vomiting or use of laxatives might indicate an eating disorder.
  • Physical symptoms - compared with adults, children with a mental health condition may develop headaches and stomach aches rather than sadness or anxiety.
  • Substance abuse - some children and young people use drugs or alcohol to try to cope with feelings. Further information about signs and symptoms can be found at MindEd. This site provides free, completely open access, online education, available on tablets, phones or computers - bite-sized chunks of 'e-learning', to help adults to support well-being and identify, understand and support children and young people with mental health issues.