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Children's mental health identifying mental health concerns

Sometimes it's hard to know what is normal development for a child and when behavior becomes something to be concerned about. Fortunately, there are ways to learning what could be happening and how to help.

Diagnostic assessment

If a child shows possible symptoms of a mental health problem, a diagnostic assessment may be in order.
A mental health professional interviews the child or family to gather information, such as:

  • Effects of symptoms on functioning in home, school and community
  • Onset, frequency, duration and severity of current symptoms
  • History of current mental health problem (developmental incidents, strengths, stressors, etc.)
  • Relevant family and social history

The diagnostic assessment is usually the first step in deciding whether and what treatment is necessary.


A mental health or developmental screening can help to identify early potential mental health problems. This usually results in referrals to a mental health professional for further evaluation.

There are a many types of screenings that target certain ages or circumstances related to the mental health of children and youth. These include:

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