Social, Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health (SEMH)

Boy at school with adult

Children and young people can experience a range of difficulties in the area of social, emotional wellbeing and mental health.  Sometimes these difficulties relate to their relationships with others but other times they relate more to how they see themselves. Often, children and young people communicate their social, emotional and mental health needs through their behaviour.   

For some children/young people, they may appear to be withdrawn or disinterested in things that they previously enjoyedOthers may behave in ways that attract attention to themselves or behave in ways that is sometimes described as ‘challenging’ or ‘dangerous’.  Typically, by altering their behaviour (either consciously or sub-consciously), children and young people are often trying to communicate their social and emotional needs to those around them.  

Importantly, children’s emotional responses, relationships and/or mental health can have an impact on their health, quality of life and wellbeing. 

Typically, children and young people’s needs are described as ranging from mild to severe. They may be short-term in nature as a response to a challenge that they are facing (such as moving schools, managing changes in their family, friendship issues) and as a result your child/young person may overcome these difficulties without additional help.  However, for other children and young people, they have ‘chronic’ or longer-term social, emotional and mental health needs that require more attention.    

Changes in behaviour can be an early sign of social, emotional and mental health needs as behaviour can be a form of communication

You can find out more on Learn Together.

Changes of Behaviour - Social
  • Difficulties making and managing friendships  

  • Difficulties forming relationships with adults 

  • Difficulties with repairing relationships 

  • Difficulties understanding social situations or boundaries.  

  • Bullying  

  • Developmentally unusual and socially unexpected social behaviours (including socially unexpected or inappropriate or harmful sexualised behaviour NSPCC Sexualised behaviour information 

Changes of Behaviour - Emotional


  • Experiencing and difficulties managing heightened emotions (may include frustration, anger, verbal and physical threats, aggression).  

  • Extreme anxiety and/or stress affecting daily life, which may lead to withdrawal.  

  • Difficulties relating to trauma or early childhood experiences, including attachment and relationship difficulties.  

  • Low self-esteem or poor sense of self as a learner or person (including hiding of feelings/needs) 

  • Bereavement and loss 

  • Bullying  

Changes of Behaviour - Mental Health

Mental Health  

  • Felling isolated or anxious 

  • Feeling depressed which could lead to self-harm. 

  • Experiencing panic attacks 

  • Experiencing obsessional compulsive disorder (OCD) 

  • Expressing suicidal thoughts. 

  • Difficulties with substance misuse 

  • Difficulties with the thoughts and feelings associated with eating. 

  • Situational mutism 

  • Bullying  

Related Pages

  1. Social, Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health (SEMH) in Early Years 0-5
  2. Social, Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health (SEMH) in school age 5-16 years
  3. Social, Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health (SEMH) in young adults 16-25
  4. SEND Information, Advice and Support Service (SENDIASS)


  1. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Situational Mutism Framework

External Links

  1. Pinpoint Parent Carer Forum
  2. Young Minds Charity
  3. Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families
  4. Younited
  5. Cambridgeshire Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS)


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