doctor and child

Step #4: Evaluate Your Child

As you know, it is difficult to know what people are thinking or feeling. Not only that, but society encourages us to hide our struggles, which means problems may not be noticed. Parents need to be proactive and determine if there is a issue with a child. There are various ways to approach this and you may choose the way with which you are comfortable, but you need to do something.

Basic Steps


Talk to Your Child

Address this topic, asking for your child's input. Ask open-ended questions to encourage sharing of feelings. If you detect symptoms of depression, don't be afraid to ask direct questions, such as "Have any of your friends talked about resorting to suicide?" or "Have you ever thought about taking your own life?" 

Make mental illness and suicide common topics for serious, open discussions.

Talking points to use with children ages 4-8, 9-13, and 14-18.

Use online screening tools 

Use the Symptom Checker from the Child Mind Institute to evaluate concerns you have about your child. The Symptom Checker will point you to which disorders you should learn more about.

Have your child take an online mental health evaluation and then discuss it together, or work through it together,
discussing as you proceed.

Go to Step #5: Act

Extended Steps


Have a Professional Evaluation

Have a thorough evaluation done by a qualified mental health professional every 6 years, which would mean prior to starting school, prior to puberty, and prior to entering college. 

We take our children for regular, preventative health checkups because we don't want physical problems to go untreated and we don't have the training to diagnose them ourselves. Our incredibly complex brain is part of the body.  Shouldn't we use trained professionals to make sure our child’s mind is developing and functioning properly?

The American Academy of Pediatrics actually now recommends that pediatricians screen children ages 12-18 for mental health issues at every doctor's visit.

Research shows that early intervention is important. Although most suicide prevention efforts are aimed at teens and young adults, it seems it would be better to identify a problem earlier in life, when possible. Later, problems become more complicated and the child reaches an age where the child is more likely to hide a problem.