More kids need help for anxiety and depression — how to know the signs

Although the majority of kids are now back in school and have returned to many of their pre-COVID-19 routines, many children continue to struggle with anxiety and depression.

Knowing the signs of anxiety and depression in children has become even more important as the COVID-19 pandemic continues and more families have sought help for their children’s mental health over the past two years.

Although most kids are now back in school and have returned to many of their pre-pandemic routines, with vaccinations more widely available, anxiety and depression continue to be a challenge for many. In October 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency due to the decline in children’s mental health related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Kids have been through a lot during COVID-19,” said Katy Hopkins, Ph.D., pediatric psychologist with Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “Even though mental health care has been more normalized during the pandemic, we need to make sure our kids still have a safe space to talk about their feelings.”

Norton Children’s Behavioral & Mental Health provides mental health care for children ages 2 to 21. Norton Children’s Medical Group pediatrician offices also are experienced at screening young patients for mental health conditions.

Signs of anxiety and depression in teenage children and adolescents:

  • Changes in sleeping (for example, oversleeping or experiencing a lack of sleep)
  • Changes in appetite (for example, overeating or becoming a newly picky eater)
  • Persistent issues with family and peer relationships
  • Prolonged change in mood or behavior

Signs of anxiety and depression?

If you think your child needs help, talk to a member of the Norton Children’s team about pediatric mental health services.

“If they’re having trouble managing their emotions, if they’ve got increased anxiety and depression and irritability, those are going to result in disruptive behaviors,” Dr. Hopkins said. “Helping a child find healthy ways to express their emotions by connecting them with a provider is going to help improve their behavior.”

Stress can affect babies and toddlers as well. They may pick up new habits like thumb-sucking, hair-twirling or nose-picking. Some may start sliding on developmental milestones and skills.

Maintaining a child’s daily routine, along with healthy eating, adequate sleep and exercise are all important for maintaining optimal mental health, according to Dr. Hopkins.

While children of all ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds have needed mental health support during the pandemic, according to Dr. Hopkins, children of color have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. LGBTQ+ children, along with kids experiencing poverty, or housing or food insecurity, also may be at higher risk of developing a mental health disorder.

If you have any concerns about your child’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, speak to your pediatrician. They can offer suggestions for treatments or refer you to a pediatric mental health care specialist.

Suicide prevention

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10 to 24. Receive immediate, free and confidential support 24/7 by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at