Youth and Mental Health 101

Signs of mental health challenges


young boy with mother looking stressed

For most of us, there are times when we might feel “off”—we may feel sad, worried, guilty, scared or suspicious. But these kinds of feelings can become a problem if they continue for a long time. They can get in the way of our school work, friends or home life. Mental health challenges may change how we feel, think and act. They may also affect our physical well-being. These signs may be visible to others (like changes in behaviour) or invisible (like thoughts and feelings). Here are some examples of the changes that may affect a person who is facing a mental health challenge:1


Click on the text blocks to learn more about how a person may be thinking, feeling or doing, and how their mental health challenge may appear to others.


  • ●  Very sad or irritable (cranky)
  • ●  Worried, scared and anxious, which gets in the way of daily activities
  • ●  Extreme mood swings, from feeling really great to feeling really low
  • ●  Numb, or losing interest in things
  • ●  Hopeless
  • ●  Really angry
  • ●  Experiencing jumbled thoughts
  • ●  Finding it hard to concentrate, which may affect work or school
  • ●  Making poor decisions
  • ●  Having strange beliefs that are not based in reality (delusions), or hearing or seeing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)
  • ●  Thinking about harming themselves
  • ●  Thinking about killing themselves
  • ●  Sleeping or eating either more or less than usual
  • ●  Avoiding school or work, or activities they previously enjoyed
  • ●  Crying a lot
  • ●  Drinking or using other drugs excessively
  • ●  Talking about killing or harming themselves
  • ●  Seeming restless or “not put together”
  • ●  Having physical challenges, like headaches and stomach aches, with no clear cause
  • ●  Keeping to themselves more than usual
  • ●  Seeming annoyed, restless or withdrawn
  • ●  For some people, you may not notice any major changes in their mood or behaviour

These are only examples of some signs you may be concerned about. Mental health challenges show up differently in each person. It’s important to remember that people are more than just these signs of a possible mental health challenge and everyone should be treated with respect.

Adapted from the Game Changers conversation starter


1. CAMH, 2018b