One half of all mental illness will have begun by the age of 14

In many cases mental illness can be prevented and certainly can be treated. It is imperative mental illness is picked up and managed by specialists as early as possible to improve outcomes of treatment and to keep young people safe.


Warning Signs

Low mood which is fairly consistent for 2 weeks or more

The young person may be:

  • Tearful
  • Not as motivated as usual
  • Isolating themselves from peers
  • Hiding in the toilets in breaks
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Feeling guilty
  • Talking negatively about themselves
  • Smiling less
  • Presenting as hopeless about their future
  • Not looking forward to anything


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Starting to harm themselves

You might notice:

  • Unexplained scratches or burn marks
  • A swollen hand from punching a wall
  • Someone is suddenly avoiding physical education or covering up their arms or legs during sport – ask them why, do not ignore it.



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A marked change in their concentration in lessons or significant drop in their academic performance

  • If this is prolonged and additional to some of these other warning signs, you would be right to show concern
  • Poor concentration and a deterioration in academic performance comes with many mental illnesses and often is an early warning sign
  • A dramatic drop or gradual decline in academic performance occurs with many mental illnesses
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Needing to leave the lesson and feeling worried with no clear reason

  • They may suddenly ask to leave a lesson and this may be out of character or a new presentation for them
  • They may tell you they had to leave as they felt trapped, panicky or their heart was racing or they felt sick




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Not eating properly, losing weight, always going to the toilet straight after meals or snacks

  • Weight loss is often ignored and thought of as normal in society these days but significant rapid weight loss should not be ignored and can rapidly become dangerous
  • Significant weight loss or rapid weight gain should be a cause for concern

A sudden change in temperament

  • Being irritable or aggressive when this is not the young person’s usual presentation
  • Showing apathy to things they would usually have joined in with

Extreme tiredness on a repeated basis

The young person may not be sleeping due to mental health issues such as low mood or anxiety and may be struggling to stay awake in class


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Lots of physical health complaints

  • Complaining of lots of ailments on multiple days
  • Regular headaches, stomach aches and feeling sick or weak limbs are common when a young person is stressed or worrying



Mood swings or unusual behaviour that is affecting their normal friendships

  • If there is new social isolation, this could be due to the young person’s mental health or affect their mental health
  • They might be saying odd or unusual things
  • They may be behaving in a slightly unusual way, such as taking risks they would not normally engage in

One or two of the above alone could indicate mental illness, if more than 2 are present, the likelihood of mental illness increases.
It is always better to get a professional consultation on a young person than to miss a mental illness.