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Frequently Asked Questions about Behavioral Health

We understand you may have many questions about behavioral health. We’re here to tell you: It’s okay to ask. The first step to addressing a behavioral health issue and breaking the stigma comes with being willing to start a conversation about it. Below you’ll find answers to commonly asked questions about behavioral health, and mental and emotional wellness in children, teens and young adults.


Can a child have mental health difficulties?

Yes, childhood mental health conditions affect many children and families, including boys and girls of all ages and backgrounds. It is estimated that 13-20% of children living in the United States (up to 1 in 5) experience a mental health condition. Without early diagnosis and treatment, this can lead to problems at home, in school, and in forming friendships. It can also impact healthy development, and problems that can continue into adulthood.

How do I know if my child has a serious mental health problem?

Mental health conditions can cause changes in the way children learn, behave or handle their emotions, which can cause distress and difficulty with daily functioning. Although some difficulties are a normal part of development, others require professional help. Seek help if your child experiences:

  • Persistent sadness, anxiety, or fear- 2 or more weeks
  • Significant changes in eating habits or sleep
  • Withdrawal from or avoiding interaction with others, including friends and family
  • Outbursts or extreme irritability
  • Drastic changes in mood, behavior or personality
  • Changes in grades or school performance
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • No longer enjoys activities that they previously enjoyed
  • Avoiding or missing school
  • Hurting oneself or talking about hurting oneself
  • Talking about death or suicide

Seeking help early is important, and children who receive the right help can go on to live full and healthy lives.

What do I do if my child says they want to die or hurt themselves?

Any statements a child makes about wanting to hurt themselves or end their life should be taken seriously. First, do not leave your child alone. Respond in a calm and supportive manner, without dismissing their thoughts and feelings as invalid. Ask for any weapons that your child may have, or if they have a plan of how they might hurt themselves. The most important step is ensuring their safety in the moment. Due to the seriousness of these statements, your child should be evaluated by a mental health professional. If your child already works with a mental health professional, get in contact with them immediately. If your child is not already connected to mental health services, you should take them to the nearest emergency room or crisis center for evaluation. There are also both local and national crisis lines available 24/7 who could provide support to your child. If you feel you cannot safely transport your child yourself, you should call 911.

Can childhood mental health conditions be treated?

Yes! There are many treatment options based on the best and most current research that can help manage and treat childhood mental health concerns. Early diagnosis and appropriate services for children and their families is important in helping children be successful.

What is therapy?

Therapy is a way to help children and adolescents address mental health difficulties. Therapy sessions can include:

  • Talking one-on-one with a psychologist, either individually or with family members
  • Playing, art, activities and therapeutic games to help children express their feelings and thoughts
  • Role playing to build new skills
  • Learning and practicing relaxation and coping skills
  • Often includes homework such as journaling or practicing skills between sessions to help generalize skills learned in therapy
  • For the most common childhood conditions, like ADHD, behavior disorders, anxiety or depression, approaches such as behavior therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy are most likely to reduce symptoms.

Who will treat my child at Valley Children’s?

Valley Children’s Hospital has a team of psychologists that work to meet the emotional, behavioral and psychological needs of patients and families. They are not medical doctors, but have earned a doctorate degree. They specialize in working with children and adolescents with different medical conditions and co-occurring mental health concerns.

Where should I go for help?

At Valley Children’s Hospital, our psychologists provide both inpatient and outpatient mental health services for children and adolescents with co-occurring medical conditions and mental health needs. You can call us at 559-353-6735. Your pediatrician or primary care doctor can also refer you to mental health providers in your community. Schools are also a good resource for counseling support and referrals.

For information about how to find a mental health provider through your insurance, click here.