Many children will have ups and downs in their feelings and behaviour as they grow up.
Thoughtful care from family, friends and your child’s school can sometimes be enough to resolve these issues.
For more serious or persistent mental health issues, there are a range of professionals who can help.
Your GP or healthcare provider may recommend your child sees a psychiatrist if they:
- struggle to complete daily tasks or to enjoy themselves
- express suicidal ideas or have self-harmed
- are likely to need medication as part of their treatment
- require admission to hospital
- have hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) or delusions (fixed ideas that are not true)
- have complex needs that require a team of doctors and other professionals
- continue to have problems despite help from other mental health professionals.
Seeing a psychiatrist is a positive step and will give your child the best chance of recovery.
Psychiatric treatment is very effective for children and adolescents with mental health issues.
The earlier a child gets the right help, the sooner they will feel better.
Find a psychiatrist
Child and adolescent psychiatrists
Child and adolescent psychiatrists are doctors who are experts in the mental health of children and young people.
They can help children and their families to manage a broad range of conditions, including:
- depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, self-harming, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder
- trauma or stress-related disorders
- autism spectrum disorders
- drug and alcohol issues
- psychological aspects of disability or developmental conditions
- complex medical issues that have psychological aspects
- reviewing medication that may influence a child’s mental health.
Skills and training
Child and adolescent psychiatrists have completed a medical degree and specialist training in psychiatry.
They have extra training in the sub-specialty of child and adolescent psychiatry.
Psychiatrists take a holistic approach, considering how emotions, social issues and physical symptoms interact.
Child and adolescent psychiatrists have specific skills in:
- managing the mental health of children and adolescents
- assessing and managing family relationships
- childhood emotional, social and behavioural development
- therapies designed for children and adolescents
- coordinating care with other health professionals.
Treatments used in child and adolescent psychiatry
The most common treatment used with children is psychotherapy (‘talking therapy’).
Some commonly used therapies are listed below.
Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
A structured talking therapy that can help to change negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
A talking, play or art-based therapy that considers how past experiences and relationships affect current behaviour.
Where family members come together to identify issues, resolve problems and learn new skills for coping and communicating with one another.
More about psychological treatments
For some conditions, medication may be the best way to manage symptoms and make sure that your child can get back to their everyday activities.
Child and adolescent psychiatrists are experts at managing medication, side effects, and interactions.
More about medication for mental illness
Child and adolescent psychiatrists see patients aged from birth to early adulthood.
For young children, psychiatrists will mainly work with parents and caregivers.
For older children and adolescents, the psychiatrist may work with the young person directly as well as the family.