Childhood Mental and Behavioral Health

Mental health challenges can be difficult for families to identify and create a great sense of stress and uncertainty for youth. About 1 out of 5 children have signs of mental illness each year. Knowing the signs, the next steps for supporting a child, when and what types of professional support exist can be overwhelming. Below is a brief overview of the following mental health conditions and resources: Anxiety, Depression, Eating Disorders, Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, and Suicidal ideation.

Anxiety Resources

Worrying and nervousness are normal emotional reactions for children and youth when they encounter stressful situations. However, some children experience elevated levels of anxiety that can't be easily controlled and may hinder their ability to function. Anxiety disorders are common and about 7% of children ages two to seventeen have been diagnosed with anxiety. Anxiety can present in a variety of physical ways such as stomach aches, trouble sleeping, or fatigue. It can also present as mood swings, general irritability and anger, and fear and worry. 

Electronic Resources


Eight Tips for Managing Children's Anxiety about Covid-19. Children's Health provides tips for supporting children during the pandemic.

Anxiety. The National Institute of Mental Health overviews the warning signs, risks, and treatments for anxiety. 

Why Childhood Anxiety Often Goes Unrecognized. Child Mind Institute reviews outward signs of anxiety in children and the consequences of leaving it untreated. 

Anxiety in Teens is Rising: What’s Going on? Health Children explores the increased rate of teenage anxiety, signs and symptoms, and treatment options.

Apps & More

 Kid Evolve reviews 15 mindfulness and relaxation apps for kids with anxiety.

All Nations Health Center in Missoula provides free mindfulness exercises on their Facebook page.


School Refusal.  Dr. Katharina Manassis explains why children sometimes refuse to go to school when school refusal becomes a serious problem and helpful therapies.

Understanding Anxiety in Children. Dr. Jenny Yip addresses the challenges in diagnosing anxiety disorders in children, identifying the underlying cause of anxiety, and providing appropriate and effective treatment.


Montana Repertory Theatre is offering Zombie Thoughts in a Covid Safe platform. This 45-minute video-game inspired play/video has been reviewed and endorsed by Licensed Clinical Social Workers and Behavioral Analysts for its depiction of and treatment suggestions for Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Additional Readings

Fact Sheets

What is Anxiety? One-page overview by Therapist Aid.

What Kids Worry about at Different Ages provides an overview of common developmental concerns children express. 

Plum Tree Psychology created a handout to facilitate a discussion about managing anxiety and when to seek support for kids. 


Ensuring Your Child is Supported at School. National Alliance of Mental Illness provides four steps for communicating with schools about a child’s needs.

Why Are More Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety? The New York Times investigates the high incidence of stress reported by teenagers today.

For Kids with Anxiety, Parents Learn to Let Them Face Their Fears. NPR explores how reframing caregiver fears can support children with anxiety.


We Are Teachers recommended reading for young children with anxiety.

Barnes and Noble Young Adults book recommendations for teen anxiety.


UCLA Health presents Dr. John Piacentini and Dr. Diana Santacrose highlight tips for supporting children with feelings of stress and anxiety.


TEDx talk by Jonas Kolker about “embracing the suck” of anxiety.



Kids Medication Breathing Square is a popular method for promoting calm and focus.

Depression Resources

It's normal for teenagers to be sad and irritable as they adjust to hormonal changes and navigate relationships, parental expectations, and uncomfortable emotions. Depression, however, is a more serious condition and one that requires professional help. If you suspect a child has depression, be sure to check-in to see how they are doing. If needed find help from a licensed professional who specializes in treating depression in children and teenagers. 

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Electronic Resources


Childhood Depression. Anxiety and Depression Association of American provides an overview of signs, symptoms, and treatments for childhood depression.

Teen Depression. The Mayo Clinic identifies the signs, risk factors, and prevention for teenage depression.

Parenting a Depressed Teenager. Tips and support for families to foster a safe and supportive relationship with their depressed child.

A mental health check-in: 14 questions to ask your child. Dr. Eli Lebowitz, Program for Anxiety Disorders at Yale Child Study Center, provides key questions to ask children.


Teens & Depression. Practically Perfect Parenting podcast about the difference between normal sadness and depression, medication treatments for youth who have depression, and other treatment alternatives. 

When Depression Hits, Teens Find Help from NRP.

Helping Teens Cope with Anxiety, Depression & More. On Boys podcast discusses the mental health of young boys.


 Healthline reviews the top apps for supporting people with depression.

Additional Readings

Fact Sheets

Children and Mental Health: Is it just a stage. National Institute of Mental Health provides a short guide for signs, symptoms, and treatment options for childhood depression.

National Alliance on Mental Illness quick overview of Depression.

Common Warning Signs of Mental Illness by National Alliance of Mental Illness.


A Rise In Depression Among Teens And Young Adults Could Be Linked To Social Media Use. NRP review of a study linking iGen youth depression to social media. 

 A child's home environment can impact the risk of developing depression. Science Daily reviews research linking childhood environments to the risk of depression in adulthood.


Anxiety and Depression Association of American compiled a list of books on childhood and teenage depression.


BuzzFeed Video overviews warning signs of childhood depression. 


TEDx Youth Hunter Kent shares about her teen years battle with depression. 

Eating Disorders Resources

It is normal for children and youths' weight to fluctuate as their bodies grow and develop. And it is typical for youth to experiment and explore different food as they begin to refine their own tastes. However, if a child becomes preoccupied with food intake or their weight they may have an eating disorder. There are many more warning signs that are specific to the type of eating disorders. This and more information is highlighted in the resources below. 

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Electronic Resources


Helping Someone with an Eating Disorder. Help Guide reviews types of eating disorders, common myths, and techniques for supporting someone in your life with an eating disorder.

National Eating Disorders Association’s Eating Disorders Screening Tool.

Busting the Myths about Eating Disorders by the National Eating Disorders Association.

You Can’t Save Your Child from Their Anorexia. Psychology Today shares a story of a mother’s struggles with her daughter's eating disorder.

Stories of Hope. National Eating Disorder Association provides personal stories from eating disorder survivors. 


Health Line highlights the best apps for supporting eating disorder recovery.


National Eating Disorders Association reviews the common signs and symptoms of eating disorders.


National Eating Disorders Association provides tips for supporting people with eating disorders.


National Eating Disorders Association highlights the prevalence of eating disorders amongst LGBTQ youth.

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Resources

Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI) or more commonly known as self-harm, has become more common ways for adolescents to cope with negative emotions such as depression and anger. Youth may do so by banging their head against a wall, cutting scratching, or burning themselves. It is important to note, youth do not participate in these behaviors for attention-seeking they are seeking to self-soothe. Some youth may self-harm once or twice, and some develop this as their primary coping mechanism. NSSI forms such as cutting do not indicate a child is suicidal, but they can lead to severe, and even fatal injury.

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Electronic Resources


 How to Deal with Self Harm. Crisis Text Line overviews what self-harm is, types, effects, and recovery strategies.

Cutting and Self-Harm: How to Feel Better without Hurting Yourself. Help Guides overviews of myths and facts about self-injury, warning signs, and how to get support.

Cutting and Self-Harm: Warning Signs and Treatment. WebMD explores the spectrum of identifying symptoms in seeking inpatient support.


 Life Hacker reviews five apps to reduce self-harming behaviors.


Non-Suicidal Self-Injury (NSSI). Social Work Podcast explores why some teens participate in self-injury, the intersection between suicidal and non-suicidal self-injury, and tips for professionals working with clients who self-harm.

Additional Readings

Fact Sheets

 Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery’s Top 15 Misconceptions about Self-Injury.

Alternative to Self-Harm. Project LETS provides a comprehensive list of activities to do in place of self-harm.

Teens Talk about Cutting. Teen Health shared suggestions and stories of teens who have stopped cutting.


The Growing Wave of Teenage Self-Injury. New York Times article exploring the increase in self-harm amongst teens.

Bleeding Away the Pain: the Ins and Outs of Self-Harm. US News article overview of self-harm in adolescents.

Non-suicidal reasons for self-harm: A systemic review of self-reported accounts. Peer-reviewed article exploring reasons for self-harm and treatment techniques for professionals.


Good Reads recommended readings on understanding, coping with, and recovering from self-injury. 

Videos and Podcasts

PychHub’s quick overview of Non-Suicidal Self-Injury.


On Our Sleeves provides insight on when it is important to seek professional support for a child who is participating in self-injury.


Dr, Nock from Harvard’s Child Mind Institute explores why some young people self-injure.


Kids in the House on why kids might self-injure?


Kids in the House video with tips on how to best respond when a child is self-injuring.


Kids in the House video about finding support for a child who is self-harming.

Suicidal Ideation Resources

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24 in Montana. Youth suicidal ideation is often misunderstood as attention-seeking, typical youth mood swings, or missed due to our perceptions of risk. If you suspect someone of any age is suicidal, use compassion and ask the question directly, such as “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”. And listen. If you are nervous about the conversation, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support at any point in the conversation. You can also access crisis counselors via texting MT to 741-741.

If you are in immediate crisis, stop and call 9-1-1 or transport the person at risk to the emergency room.

Teens describe common signs that a teen is considering suicide and provide encouragement for communicating directly and immediately for support and safety.

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Electronic Resources


Teen Suicides: What are the Risk Factors? Child Mind Institute reviews common risk and protective factors related to youth suicide.

Which Kids are at Highest Risk for Suicide? Healthy Children review risk factors for suicide in children.

How to Deal with Suicide. Crisis Text Line provides an updated take on common warning signs, risk factors, and prevention ideas for youth suicide.

Printable Suicide Safety PlanA fill-in-the-blank template for developing a safety plan with warning signs, supportive people, distractions, and professional help for someone in crisis.

Blog by Dr. John Sommers-Flanagan with current research, training resources, and clinical techniques for supporting a person who is experiencing suicidal ideation. 


Stanford Medicine's podcast about suicide and hope.

Psych Central podcast about suicide myth-busting.


My3 is an app that allows you to create a network of support and a safety plan for times of mental health crisis.

Suicide Safety Plan (Android). 

Stanley-Brown Safety Plan (Apple).

Additional Readings

Fact Sheets

Montana Kid’s Count brief Suicide: Losing Life in Montana.

Youth Suicide Warning Signs. Provides a short and simple overview of suicide warning signs and the next steps.

Suicide Rising Across the US. The Center for Disease Control’s vital signs suicide overview.


Why Does Montana Have Such a High Suicide Rate? Suffer Out Load, a Montana based blog about mental illness offers a review of Montana’s most recent suicide report.   

Middle School Suicides Reach an All-Time High. NPR Ed review of the increase in youth suicide.

The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide: What We Know and What it Means for Schools. Center for Disease Control report about bullying prevention as a means of suicide prevention.


Book Riot's recommending reading for parents of children with depression.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital recommended reading for teens and parents of teens with mental health challenges.


Six young shares what adults need to look out for and what to say if they are concerned about a young person.

Beyond the Paint.'s story highlighting the resilience and strengths of the Arlee Warriors.

Dancing Towards the Light. A 30-minute mini-documentary about the hope and resilience of indigenous youth in Arviat, Nunavut.