The mental health of our children is a natural and important concern for us all. The fact is, many mental disorders have their beginnings in childhood or adolescence, yet may go undiagnosed and untreated for years. (NIMH)

We refer to mental disorders using different “umbrella” terms such as emotional disturbance, behavioral disorders, or mental illness. Beneath these umbrella terms, there is actually a wide range of specific conditions that differ from one another in their characteristics and treatment.

These include (but are not limited to):  

  • anxiety disorders
  • bipolar disorder (sometimes called manic-depression)
  • conduct disorders
  • eating disorders;
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • psychotic disorders.

It’s important to remember that help is available for those with emotional disturbances. According to the National Institute of Mental Health millions in the US are affected by mental illness, but only about 50% receive treatment.

For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA also has a Behavioral Health Treatment Locator on its website that can be searched by location.

For a mental health crisis in Utah, contact the 24 hour lifeline, call 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

If you have a child with mental health challenges, it is essential to work with school professionals together to provide appropriate supports. With these supports, accommodations and special services, your child will have a much greater chance for success in school. For more information about accommodations  and behavior intervention plans, please check out our behavior resources.

Utah’s Special Education Rules, pages 37-39, to implement the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) includes the following definition of emotional disturbance:

“Emotional disturbance means a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a student’s educational performance:

(1) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors

(2) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.

(3) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.

(4) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

(5) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.

Emotional disturbance includes schizophrenia.

The term does not apply to students who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they have an emotional disturbance.

Emotional disturbance is a term that covers the following two types of behavioral difficulties, which are not mutually exclusive and which may adversely affect a student’s educational performance.

(a) Externalizing refers to behavior problems that are directed outwardly by the student toward the social environment, and usually involve behavioral excesses.

(b) Internalizing refers to a class of behavior problems that are directed inwardly, and often involve behavioral deficits:.


Emotional Disturbance Information Sheet

This tip sheet from the Utah Parent Center discusses the emotional disturbance category of IDEA, resources for information and ways to access help.

Tips for Teachers and School Staff from Students with Mental Health and Behavioral Challenges

Talking to educators and other adults about mental health challenges can be difficult for youth. This list developed bny  Pacer Center includes tips that parents can share to help educators to understand their child with mental health issues.

It’s very helpful to read more about emotional disturbance.  The following are links to additional information:

NAMI Utah (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

NAMI is a nonprofit, grassroots, self-help, support and advocacy organization of consumers, families, and friends of people with severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic and other severe anxiety disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and other severe and persistent mental illnesses that affect the brain.

The National Institute of Mental Health

NIMH is a an excellent government resource on mental health issues, research, treatments currently available.

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is an international nonprofit membership organization (with more than 1,800 professional mental health members) and a leader in education, training, and research for anxiety, depression and related disorders. The public access page provides information about a variety of mental health issues.

hare to help educators to understand their child with mental health issues.  

New Frontiers for Families

New Frontiers for Families mission is that through the Wraparound process to bring providers, educators, businesses, community leaders and neighbors together in order to empower families to succeed at home, at school and in their communities by listening and working together to create services and supports that meet their needs.

Neda: Feeding Hope

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. Many people with eating disorders also are affected by anxiety and other mental health issues. Information on autism and eating disorders is addressed here.

International OCD Foundation

The International OCD Foundation is a donor-supported nonprofit organization. Founded in 1986 by a small group of individuals with OCD, the Foundation has grown into an international membership-based organization serving a broad community of individuals with OCD and related disorders, their family members and loved ones, and mental health professionals and researchers around the world.  This site provides a variety of information on OCD.

Mental Health Matters

Get Mental Help, Inc., the new owner of Mental Health Matters, was founded to supply information and resources to mental health consumers, professionals, students and supporters. While the percentage of people facing a diagnosable Mental Disorder in any given year is substantial, the acceptance of these problems can be hard to come by. Essentially, Mental Health Issues are hidden illnesses. The need for an anonymous avenue for consumers and supporters to gather information very real and very large and Mental Health Matters is attempting to help.

Mental Health America (MHA)

MHA was founded in 1909 and  is a community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans. They are commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all; early identification and intervention for those at risk; integrated care, services, and supports for those who need it; with recovery as the goal.

Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition

Suicide is a leading cause of preventable death in Utah and takes lives without regard to age, income, race, or gender. This is  a public-private partnership of community members, suicide survivors, service providers, researchers, and others dedicated to saving lives and advancing suicide prevention efforts in Utah. The coalition has four workgroups: community awareness, training & education, epidemiology, and policy. To reach the 24 hour lifeline, call 1.800.273.TALK (8255)

SafeUT Crisis Text and Tipline

The SafeUT Crisis Text and Tip Line is a statewide service that provides real-time crisis intervention to youth through texting and a confidential tip program – right from your smartphone.

Licensed clinicians in our 24/7 CrisisLine call center respond to all incoming chats, texts, and calls by providing:

  • supportive or crisis counseling,
  • suicide prevention,
  • and referral services.

We can help anyone with emotional crises, bullying, relationship problems, mental health, or suicide related issues.