Social and emotional mental health

Children and young people presenting with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties often struggle to manage their emotions and behaviour. They also find it difficult to make and keep relationships with adults and other children and young people.

These difficulties may show as them becoming withdrawn or isolated as well as through challenging, disruptive or other concerning behaviour. Children and young people with SEMH often struggle to engage in a learning environment, often showing inappropriate behaviour and may benefit from additional support to reach their full potential.

Typical characteristics of young children with SEMH are:

  • disruptive and uncooperative behaviour
  • unusual behaviour (for your child)
  • withdrawn or isolated behaviour
  • anxiety
  • persistent low mood.

Of course, it is very common for someone to feel low in mood from time to time. This can be dependent on life events, bereavements or struggles with learning. It is important to consider factors which can affect a person’s mood and behaviour, and be mindful of the length of time and frequency.

SEMH does not have to be a life-long condition. With appropriate support, children and young people can move forward in their development and live successful and happy lives.

Where to get support

There is national support available from:

If you know a child or young person with symptoms such as self-harm, suicidal thoughts or dangerous behaviour, they can be referred to Kent Young Persons’ Wellbeing Service. If a child or young person is in any immediate danger, or poses potential harm to others, call 999 or take them to A and E if possible.

If you are unsure about who to contact, visit the Kent Resilience website to read a helpful online guide created by the North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) which will let you know who to speak to in Kent.

There are online and self-help services that can be used, these are:

  • Kooth - for children aged 10 to 16 in need of mental health support, including online counselling, visit the Kooth website to register for the supportive online community with lots of guided support courses and resources.
  • Togetherall - mental health support, including online counselling, for young people aged 16 to 18 in Kent. Visit the Togetherall website to access the supportive online community which includes lots of guided support course and resources.
  • Release the Pressure - text ‘Kent’ to 85258 for in the moment help when life gets overwhelming and you need immediate support. No fee, no registration or data required - it is silent, free, confidential and anonymous. We are here for everyone, young people and adults, 24/7 - text any time, day or night, whenever you need mental health support.
  • Kent Child Health - if your child is aged 4 to 19 and struggling with their emotional health, you can access support from the Children and Young People’s Counselling Service, go to the Kent Child Health website or call 0800 783 9111 for more information.
  • ChatHealth - if you’re aged 11 to 19 years old and struggling with your emotions, text Chathealth to 07520 618850 for mental health support and find out a number of ways to help you.
  • Moodspark - mental health support to young people in Kent, their website is full of useful resources and service information for parents and teachers too.

Kent children and young people’s single point of access

If you are concerned about a young person’s mental health and are not sure what extra help is needed you can call the Single Point of Access (SPA) on 0800 783 9111. The SPA is there to help you explore the difficulties and find the most appropriate response.