Helping Our Children: Supporting Their Mental Health

March 23, 2021

This document as a pdf.

Dear friends and neighbors,

The pandemic has been difficult for all of us, but especially for our children. As a parent myself, I’ve seen the effects on our children of isolation, changes in routine which aren’t under our control, fear of contracting COVID, and even the trauma of losing loved ones. I also understand the confusion we parents may feel, wondering if changes in our children are normal adolescent behavior, or the beginning of anxiety, depression, mood disorder, and mental illness. That is why I’ve put together this booklet, to help you navigate your child’s behavior, monitor any concerning issues, and know exactly where to go for help, and when.

This booklet was put together with the help of Michelle Piccerillo from Cheshire Human Services, NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness, Department of Children and Families Office of Community Health, and other community partners dedicated to the health and wellness of our children.

In short: you are not alone; you are not overreacting when you choose to find help; we are here to support you and your child as you navigate these challenging times. I get it. I’m there, too.




Learn the signs to look for that you or someone you know might be experiencing a mental health crisis and learn how to access the help needed through support and treatment.

First, let’s be aware of the challenges facing our kids, which could precipitate a crisis. This is not an all- inclusive list, and mental health challenges could also seemingly appear out of the blue.

The Challenges…

  • The COVID-19 Pandemic/Quarantine - Isolation, lack of socialization, changes in routine, and facing the reality of death from Covid can all contribute to anxiety and depression
  • Economic/Financial Issues - If your family is facing these challenges, your children are feeling them, too.
  • The Racial Divide - The world’s concerns often become our children’s concerns. Children often have a fine-tuned sense of justice, and challenges to their internal compass for justice often results in anxiety.
  • Politics/Election - It was stressful for all of us!
  • Violence - Children are struggling to make sense of the violence they see in the news, and any familial violence is traumatic to all involved.
  • Learning Remotely/Working Remotely - Changes in routine can greatly disrupt a child’s world
  • Natural Disasters/Weather Events - Uncontrollable events are often a source of anxiety
  • Constant Exposure through News and Social Media - It’s affecting us as adults, just imagine what it does to our children who lack the maturity to keep it all in context
  • Grief and Loss - This applies not only to illness and death of loved ones, but there is also a sense of grief and loss for their pre-pandemic lives.


A crisis situation can be anything which you need help to handle. Being in crisis is NOT a sign of bad parenting, in fact, it may be the opposite. Recognizing that you need help to help your child is selfless, and an act of good parenting!


Crisis Situation

Types of Crisis Situations

  • Medical emergency
  • Panic attack
  • Aggressive behaviours
  • Substance use
  • Traumatic event
  • Non-suicidal self-injury
  • Severe psychotic states
  • Suicidal thoughts

Signs and Symptoms of a Crisis Situation: Medical Emergencies

  • Unintentionally throwing up several times a day
  • Fainting
  • Collapsing or being too weak to walk
  • Painful muscle spasms
  • Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • Blood in bowel movements, urine, or vomit
  • An irregular or very low heartbeat or respiratory rate
  • Cold or clammy skin indicating a low body temperature

Signs and Symptoms of a Crisis Situation: Psychosis

  • Social isolation or withdrawal
  • Difficulty concentrating or paying attention
  • Decreased work or school performance
  • Decline in self-care or personal hygiene
  • Changes in appetite
  • Unusual sleep disturbances
  • Dressing inappropriately for the weather
  • Showing limited, flat, or inappropriate emotions or facial expressions
  • Confused or disorganized manner of speech
  • Suspicion or expressing unusual, intense new, or odd ideas
  • Voicing strange feelings
  • Delusions or hallucinations

Signs and Symptoms of a Crisis Situation: Warning Signs of Suicidal Thoughts

  • Talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide
  • Threatening to hurt or kill themselves
  • Looking for ways to kill themselves, seeking access to means
  • Showing anxiety or agitation
  • Being unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • Feeling no reason for living, no sense of purpose in life
  • Feeling trapped, like there is no way out
  • Thinking there is no reason for living
  • Thinking there is no safe way out of a bad situation


How to Deescalate


Crisis Situation


Now you know why these changes may happen, let’s talk about concrete things to look for which should trigger you to seek an evaluation from a pediatrician or mental health professional.

  • Always seek immediate help if a child engages in unsafe behavior or talks about wanting to hurt him or herself or someone else.
  • Seek help when a child’s behavior or emotional difficulties last for more than a few weeks and are causing problems at school, at home, or with friends.
  • A thorough evaluation can help determine if treatment is necessary, and which treatments may be most effective.
  • Early treatment can help address a child’s current difficulties and can also help prevent more serious problems in the future.



Even under the best of circumstances, it can be hard to tell the difference between challenging behaviors and emotions that are consistent with typical child development and those that are cause for concern. It is important to remember that many disorders like anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and depression, do occur during childhood. In fact, many adults who seek treatment reflect back on how these disorders affected their childhood and wish that they had received help sooner. In general, if a child’s behavior persists for a few weeks or longer, causes distress for the child or the child’s family, and interferes with functioning at school, at home, or with friends, then consider seeking help. If a child’s behavior is unsafe, or if a child talks about wanting to hurt him or herself or someone else, then seek help immediately.

Young children may benefit from an evaluation and treatment if they:

  • Have frequent tantrums or are intensely irritable much of the time
  • Often talk about fears or worries
  • Complain about frequent stomach aches or headaches with no known medical cause
  • Are in constant motion and cannot sit quietly (except when they are watching videos or playing video games)
  • Sleep too much or too little, have frequent nightmares, or seem sleepy during the day
  • Are not interested in playing with other children or have difficulty making friends
  • Struggle academically or have experienced a recent decline in grades
  • Repeat actions or check things many times out of fear that something bad may happen.

Older children and adolescents may benefit from an evaluation if they:

  • Have lost interest in things that they used to enjoy
  • Have low energy
  • Sleep too much or too little, or seem sleepy throughout the day
  • Are spending more and more time alone, and avoid social activities with friends or family
  • Fear gaining weight, or diet or exercise excessively
  • Engage in self-harm behaviors (e.g., cutting or burning their skin)
  • Smoke, drink, or use drugs
  • Engage in risky or destructive behavior alone or with friends
  • Have thoughts of suicide
  • Have periods of highly elevated energy and activity, and require much less sleep than usual
  • Say that they think someone is trying to control their mind or that they hear things that other people cannot hear.



First, if your child is actively harming themselves, having suicidal thoughts, or planning to hurt others, call 2-1-1 and press option 1 for the Mobile Crisis Service. This is a 24 hour, 7 day a week free service to have your child immediately evaluated by a mental health professional. NOTE: If calling by cell phone, 2-1-1 can also be reached toll-free at: 800-203-1234

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOU CALL 2-1-1 - A social worker or other mental health professional will arrive within 45 minutes most times, and will come in a discreet vehicle, unless an ambulance is needed or a 911 phone call is made. The social worker will speak directly with the child to assess any immediate risk, and then make recommendations to the parent for further evaluation, treatment, or other options.

PLEASE NOTE - There is no shame in having the Emergency Mobile Crisis team to come to your home. Every professional on the team would rather you err on the side of caution. If you feel you should call, then call. Trust your gut. Do not have any concerns about overreacting, placing any burdens on others by calling, or fear any stigma associated with calling for the service. The service is confidential, it is not listed in the police blotter, there is no fee. This service is available for exactly this reason - to help a child and family in crisis.



First Steps for Parents

  • Talk with your child’s teacher. What is the child’s behavior like in school, daycare, or on the playground?
  • Talk with your child’s pediatrician. Describe the behavior, and report what you have observed and learned from talking with others.
  • Ask for a referral to a mental health professional who has experience and expertise dealing with children.

Finding Answers

  • An evaluation by a health professional can help clarify problems that may be underlying a child’s behavior and provide reassurance or recommendations for next steps.
  • It provides an opportunity to learn about a child’s strengths and weaknesses and determine which interventions might be most helpful.

A comprehensive assessment of a child’s mental health includes the following:

  • An interview with parents addressing a child’s developmental history, temperament, relationships with friends and family, medical history, interests, abilities, and any prior treatment. It is important to get a picture of the child’s current situation, for example: has he or she changed schools recently, has there been an illness in the family, or a change with an impact on the child’s daily life.
  • Information gathering from school, such as standardized tests, reports on behavior, capabilities, and difficulties.
  • An interview with the child about his or her experiences, as well as testing and behavioral observations, if needed.


  • Assessment results may suggest that a child’s behavior is related to changes or stresses at home or school; or is the result of a disorder for which treatment would be recommended. Treatment recommendations may include:
  • Psychotherapy (“talk therapy”). There are many different approaches to psychotherapy, including structured psychotherapies directed at specific conditions.
  • Information about types of psychotherapies is available on the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Psychotherapies page. Effective psychotherapy for children always includes:
    • Parent involvement in the treatment (especially for children and adolescents)
    • Teaching skills and practicing skills at home or at school (between session “homework assignments”)
    • Measures of progress (e.g., rating scales, improvements on homework assignments) that are tracked over time.
  • Medications. Medication may be used along with psychotherapy. As with adults, the type of medications used for children depends on the diagnosis and may include antidepressants, stimulants, mood stabilizers, and others. General information on specific classes of medications is available on NIMH’s mental health medications page. Medications are often used in combination with psychotherapy. If different specialists are involved, treatment should be coordinated.
  • Family counseling. Including parents and other members of the family in treatment can help families understand how a child’s individual challenges may affect relationships with parents and siblings and vice versa.
  • Support for parents. Individual or group sessions that include training and the opportunity to talk with other parents can provide new strategies for supporting a child and managing difficult behavior in a positive way. The therapist can also coach parents on how to deal with schools.
  • To find information about treatment options for specific disorders, visit


It’s especially important to look for a child mental health professional who has training and experience treating the specific problems that your child is experiencing. Ask the following questions when meeting with prospective treatment providers:

  • Do you use treatment approaches that are supported by research?
  • Do you involve parents in the treatment? If so, how are parents involved?
  • Will there be homework between sessions?
  • How will progress from treatment be evaluated?
  • How soon can we expect to see progress?
  • How long should treatment last?



You’ve gotten the ball rolling on finding help for your child, but what should you do to support your child’s mental health at home and school?

First, be active in your child’s treatment. Ask your clinician what changes should be made at home to support your child’s treatment.

Educate yourself. NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness provides wonderful courses for parents and children. NAMI Basics OnDemand is a free, six-session online education program for parents, caregivers and other family who provide care for youth aged 22 or younger who are experiencing mental health symptoms. NAMI Basics OnDemand is an adaptation of the in-person course offered in 43 states by NAMI affiliates. It is a must-attend for parents and caregivers, and can be done on-demand, at your pace.

Try a Little Tenderness. Thinking of your child’s depression or anxiety as an illness will help remind you that it’s not something they can just “get over”, or “toughen up” about, just like they can’t just “power through” diabetes or broken bones. Recovering from mental illness requires treatment, sometimes it requires medication, and it isn’t solved overnight. Prepare yourself for a longer term recovery, and be committed to finding the right accommodations and home structure for your child. It won’t be perfect, recovery isn’t linear. But a little understanding goes a long way.

Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Parenting a child with a mental illness isn’t easy, but the work is worth it. However, you can’t help anyone if you’re suffering yourself.

Consider this your permission to seek counseling on your own to help you through this difficult time. Family counseling can help everyone come together for a harmonious home.


  • Call 2-1-1 from a landline; when prompted follow 1-1 again. All 211 calls are screened for a police or ambulance. Only dial 911 if it’s a medical emergency.
  • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741) - Available 24/7, 365 days a year, this organization helps people with mental health challenges by connecting callers with trained crisis volunteers who will provide confidential advice, support, and referrals if needed.
  • Lifeline Chat - chat online with crisis centers around the United States.
  • The Trevor Project (Call 866-488-7386 or Text “START” to 678678) - Trained counselors available 24/7 to support youth who are in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment free place to talk. Specializing in supporting the LGBTQI+ community.

Help Lines

If your child is actively harming themselves, having suicidal thoughts, or planning to hurt others, call 911, or 2-1-1 and press option 1 for the Mobile Crisis Service. This is a 24 hour, 7 day a week free service to have your child immediately evaluated by a mental health professional. NOTE: If calling by cell phone, 2-1-1 can also be reached toll-free at: 800.203.1234

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOU CALL 2-1-1 - A social worker or other mental health professional will arrive within 45 minutes most times, and will come in a discreet vehicle, unless an ambulance is needed or a 911 phone call is made. The social worker will speak directly with the child to assess any immediate risk, and then make recommendations to the parent for further evaluation, treatment, or other options.



Provided by Connecting to Care CT


Care Coordination


System Navigation

Care Coordinators work with families to identify their needs, navigate and link to supports and services, coordinate their care and advocate for their needs.

Mobile Crisis


Crisis Stabilization

Centralized, toll-free number (2-1-1) for person-to-person assistance and connection to local crisis services; accessible 24/7, 365 days a year. Caller defines crisis & setting.



Outpatient Treatment

Community-based, multi-disciplinary team of psychiatrists, psychologists, clinicians and other professionals that provide a wide array of behavioral health treatment services to children, adolescents and their families.

*If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, access Mobile Crisis directly by dialing 2-1-1 and then enter 1, 1 when prompted.


Name of Agency Service Provided Location Contact
Child Guidance Clinic of Central CT Outpatient Services 384 Pratt Street
Meriden, CT 06450
(203) 235-5767
Community Mental Health Affiliates Outpatient Services 233 Main Street
New Britain, CT 06051
(860) 826-1358
Wheeler Clinic Outpatient Services
Mobile Crisis*
Care Coordination
91 Northwest Drive
Plainville, CT 06062
(860) 793-3567
Rushford Center Inc. Care Coordination 883 Paddock Avenue
Meriden, CT 06450
(203) 634-7061

*Wheeler Clinic serves as the provider for Mobile Crisis services that are accessible through 2-1-1.


Name of Agency Service Provided Location Contact
Community Mental Health Affiliates Outpatient Services 36 Sheffield Street
Waterbury, CT
(860) 826-1358
Wellmore, Inc. Outpatient Services
Care Coordination
70 Pine Street
Waterbury, CT 06710
(203) 575-0466 ext. 115
Wellmore, Inc. Outpatient Services
Care Coordination
150 Meadow Street
Naugatuck, CT 06770
(203) 575-0466 ext. 115
Wellmore, Inc. Care Coordination
Mobile Crisis*
402 E. Main Street
Waterbury, CT 06702
(203) 755-1143

*Wellmore serves as the provider for Mobile Crisis services that are accessible through 2-1-1.


14 Youth Service Bureaus serve 14 towns in the Central Region

Cheshire Youth & Social Services, Inc.
84 South Main Street
Cheshire, CT 06410
(203) 271-6690

Meriden Youth Services
165 Miller Street
Meriden, CT 06450
(203) 630-4221

For more information or to find another YSB, visit:


For questions, additional information, or connection to services, please contact:

Kenisha Creary
Network of Care Manager for Central Region 6
Julie Calabro
Network of Care Manager for Southwest Region 5
Stan Kasanowski
System Program Director for Region 6
Sergio Alvarez
System Program Director for Region 5

For Kids Only



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  • Text talk to 38255
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  • Get connected
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