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Don’t Face it Alone: Insider’s Guide to Seeking Children's Mental Health Services

When we’re sick, it’s sometimes difficult to know if it’s serious enough to go to the doctor – or if we should wait. The same thing can happen with a mental health or behavioral issue – especially when it involves a child or teen. People often hesitate to seek help because they’re unsure if help is appropriate. Sometimes, they just don’t know how to ask for help or what will happen when they do. Simply put, it’s new and unfamiliar territory.

The good news is help is available. Health care providers are not only willing, but also eager, to provide an assessment and connect you with professional services which can make a world of difference – and sometimes even lifesaving.

Seeking Help for Children's Mental Health

The most common questions parents ask about a mental health issue: Is this normal? Should I be concerned? With kids and teens, it’s often unclear whether troubling behaviors are simply a passing phase or something more. I would recommend a low threshold for seeking help because early treatment can catch problems before they become serious.

Mental Health Care is Designed to Address Several Issues, Including:

There are two primary ways to receive mental health care. You can contact your pediatrician or primary care provider for a referral. You can also simply call 402-717-HOPE and request an evaluation. Either way, you will be asked questions which help us determine the type of care you need. This is not the time to hold back - especially if there are concerns about drug or alcohol use. The information you provide helps us determine what kind of mental health care is most appropriate to address your needs.

Finding Immediate Help for Children's Mental Health

If you are concerned about self-harm or suicidal or homicidal thoughts, go immediately to an emergency department. This is a completely appropriate place to seek help if you fear for your own or a loved one’s safety. Being seen in the emergency department doesn’t mean that you or a loved one will automatically be admitted, though that can happen. Keep in mind there are different levels of care, including a partial hospitalization. The emergency department staff will assess your immediate safety needs, identify the level of crisis and recommend appropriate resources.

It starts with an assessment by a physician. A therapist is sometimes brought in to assist with this process. Questions include whether the patient has a plan or intent to harm, whether they have support and if they can contract for safety – meaning they know what action to take if they feel they may harm themselves or others, such as calling a therapist or telling a parent.

Another resource to be aware of is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available by texting or calling 988. This 24/7 service is free and confidential and provides prevention and crisis resources for people in distress.

Resources for Children's Mental Health

Raising children can be challenging under any circumstance, but parents don’t have to feel alone in their struggle.

Seeking a mental health provider's support is completely appropriate for pointers and advice on, for example, how to set appropriate boundaries for a rebelling teenager. Help can be short-term to deal with a specific conflict, or it can be long-term. The mental health care resources are here for you – whenever you need them.

Another resource for parents is the Nebraska Family Helpline at 1 (888) 866-8660. This service provided by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services connects Nebraska families with help for dealing with children’s mental health problems – from not following family rules and aggression at school to chemical dependency and physical/sexual abuse. It’s a 24/7 single point of contact with trained counselors who provide assessment and recommendations for appropriate resources and services.

If you think seeking help from a mental health provider is the right step for you, meet our team of mental health providers.

Originally Published: February 2020. Revised: July 2022.

Crystal Reyelts, MD
Crystal Reyelts, MD

Dr. Crystal Reyelts is an Adult, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist at CHI Health.

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