Behavioral health issues are very common — and support from friends and family is one of the best ways to help people who are struggling. For the nearly 54 million Americans who suffer from some type of mental illness each year, encouragement from their loved ones often makes a huge difference.

But in order for that to happen, family and friends have to identify the typical symptoms of behavioral issues. Many people who suffer from behavioral health struggles don’t ask for help — or don’t recognize their problems — and many have no idea help is available. This can be the case for people of all ages, including children.

As a friend or family member, being able to identify some of the warning signs of behavioral health problems can go a long way to helping your loved one. In some serious cases, it can make the difference between life and death. Different age groups process issues in different ways.

Some of the most common signs of behavioral health issues in younger children:

  • School performance: Lowering grades, attention span issues, and behavioral problems. In some cases, scholastic performance may suffer even though you can tell your child is trying their hardest
  • Major changes in sleep or eating habits
  • Hyperactivity
  • Sleep issues and nightmares
  • Temper and behavioral issues at home ranging from more aggression to frequent, extreme temper tantrums
  • Extreme anxiety, which may show up in a refusal to go to (or get out of) bed, do homework, or go to school

For older children and those reaching the teen years and adolescence, here are a few different signs to keep track of (but still keep the above signs in mind as well, since some of them can linger):

  • Common complaints of physical pain or injury
  • Defiance of authority, which often begins showing up as truancy, theft, or vandalism
  • Substance abuse: Often alcohol, sometimes drugs
  • Coping issues: They’re frequently overwhelmed by daily life or simple tasks
  • Intense fear, often in social situations
  • Long periods of negative mood or depression

Finally, while keeping all of the above in mind for people of all ages, older adolescents and adults will often show some of these other signs of behavioral health problems:

  • Extended depression
  • Social withdrawal
  • Roller coaster: Feelings of extreme highs and lows on a daily basis
  • Confusion or deluded thoughts (hallucinations in some extreme cases)
  • Suicidal thoughts or statements

If you or someone you know is displaying more than one of these symptoms, and especially if they’re major, sudden changes from their normal behavior, seek immediate assistance.

If a friend or loved one is actively talking about harming themselves or committing suicide, call 911. You can be the difference for a friend in need.