Skip to main content

Mental Health in Children and Adolescents

You are not alone. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 ages 3-17 have a mental health disorder. It’s important to remember that improvement is possible, and treatment can help.

Seeking help – where do I start?

It can be daunting to ask for help, but there are several ways to get started. 

Talk with child’s primary care provider. It may be helpful to record your observations of behavior changes by making a note of the differences and creating a timeline. Here are some changes you might want to record:

  • Behavioral/emotional changes: increased irritability, sadness, feeling overwhelmed, withdrawal from friends and family, isolation

  • Social changes: loss of interest in activities that previously brought pleasure, withdrawal from friends and family, isolation

  • School: drop in academic performance, concern expressed by school professionals, changes in school participation

  • General concerns: why you believe there may be mental health issues, anything else of note

  • Additional information to consider providing: any family history of mental health symptoms or diagnosis, changes in your child’s life or additional stressors, any traumatic event

Contact your insurance provider. Ask for a list of mental health professionals, or look online for a provider guide. Online Medicaid provider guides are available for Kansas and Missouri:



Contact your local community mental health center. Community mental health centers offer support in the community rather than in an institutional setting through a variety of services. These services may include therapy, psychiatry, wraparound services, case management and crisis services. In Missouri, mental health centers provide services to those with Medicaid. In Kansas, services are based on meeting clinical criteria regardless of insurance, though special Medicaid waivers may be available.

Directory of mental health resources in Kansas.

More information about Missouri’s community mental health centers.

Types of mental health care providers

Therapists provide mental health care through various assessments, diagnosing mental health disorders, skill building, coordination with others involved in the participants life (with consent), navigating mental health care, developing safety plans, and referring to other mental health treatment providers as appropriate. Therapists include: social workers, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and psychologists. Therapists may specialize in specific populations and treatment approaches.

Psychologists provide therapy as stated above, additionally they are trained in specialized mental health and testing related to learning and processing.

Psychiatrists provide medical mental health care through psychiatric evaluations, diagnosing and prescribing medication to address mental health symptoms and diagnoses.  Child and Adolescent psychiatrists specialize in mental health treatment/prescribing psychiatric medication for youth.

Children’s Mercy provides mental health services, including assessment, diagnosis and treatment, for its patients through its Developmental and Behavioral Health and Child and Family Therapy departments.

Additional resources

CommCare: Connects Missouri residents to local providers including community mental health centers, provides mental health crisis support 24 hours a day. Multiple services provided, including the FirstStepforHELP mental health crisis line at (888) 279-8188.

First Call: Focused on reducing substance use, provides general resources including mental health.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): SAMHSA’s National Helpline (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service at (800) 662-HELP (4357) or TTY: (800) 487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.

United Way of Greater Kansas City: Connects individuals to local social service agencies providing a variety of services including mental health. Call 211 in Kansas City.

Helping Your Child During a Mental Health Crisis

The Children's Mercy Acute Mental Health Screening team made this guide to help parents and caregivers know what to do when a child or teen is having a mental health crisis. You can get step-by-step guidance for different circumstances and find out what to expect if you come to the Emergency Room with a child in crisis.