The biggest risks to teen health might not include what you would expect – mental health complications, including depression, anxiety and even suicide, are some of the most prominent risks to teens. With widespread loneliness as a result of social media, isolation due to mental health side effects and pressures at home and school, it is no surprise teens are seen struggling so often.
So what to do if you notice signs of mental illness in your teen? What can you do to provide mental health support to your child, both at home and in other ways?
We’re glad you asked.
Signs and symptoms of mental illness in teens
To be able to provide your teen with the support they need, you have to first be able to identify signs pointing to poor mental health. This can be confusing for parents during teenage years due to the stereotypical “rebellious stage;” but encouraging conversation with your teen may allow you to note the difference between teen exploration and true mental illness.
Common symptoms a struggling teen may display include:
Withdrawing from activities previously enjoyed, including withdrawing from friends and family members, and not wanting to participate in social activities
Appearing to be perpetually “off” or sad for longer than two weeks
Expressing thoughts that they are not wanted, or that it would be better off if they were no longer around
Is excessively irritable or prone to angry outbursts, especially if your teen is usually content and amicable
Has poor sleeping habits or lacks an overall routine
Showing increased risk-taking behaviors, including promiscuity or drug/alcohol use
Is missing school or frequently tardy/absent
Does not eat well and loses or gains weight in a sudden amount of time
Not all of these symptoms mean your child has a diagnosable mental health condition, and not all teens will show these exact symptoms. You know your child best and will be the most effective judge in determining just how seriously you need to take their sudden changes in behavior.
How to support your teen’s mental health
Because there are so many cases of mental illness in teens, resources that provide mental health and family support, as well as evidence-based mental health services, are widely available for parents seeking support for their teens, as well as the whole family.
Mental health counseling services provide individualized treatment plans and care so that personal goals can be reached; your teen will be allowed to share their thoughts and emotions in a place that is safe so they can process and come to terms with their experiences; and sessions for the whole family can teach everyone how to best cope and handle everyone’s emotions properly.
In addition to seeking mental health counseling services, should that be what your teen requires, you can try other various methods of stress reduction and mental health boosting at home to benefit all members of your family.
Stick to a routine
This may include breakfast at a scheduled time each morning, dinner together as a family, a board game night once a week, scheduled time for screens off each day and/or household chores on Saturday mornings. Whatever you choose, make it consistent and simple. The routine should not feel like a chore but should feel like an easy way to reign in potential chaos in the day.
If you want to have a conversation with your child, make sure you give them the space they need to share – try to avoid entering into the conversation with any intention of fixing them or telling them how to make things better. Instead, let them know you want to hear about how they are doing and what they are going through.
Hopefully, this openness to letting them share, and your interest in them and desire to ask follow-up questions, will show them how deeply you care and allow them to receive the help they need.
Provide for their physical health
Our mental health thrives on good physical wellness, but sometimes teens do not excel at taking care of their bodies the way they need to. You can help them immensely by keeping healthy snacks in the home, cooking meals full of proteins and vegetables and teaching them by example the importance of healthy nutrition, and healthy exercise.
Don’t make their academic achievements the priority
Of course you want your child to excel in all they do, especially academically, but putting too much stock in academics will more likely lead to unneeded stress. If their grades begin to slip, teens may feel an increased lack of self-confidence. While it is important to foster good study habits and proper attendance, avoid putting grades above their mental health.
Need adolescent mental health services?
If your teen is showing signs of a mental health disorder, or if you simply want to get additional support for your teen while they venture through adolescence, help is available. Reach out to High Focus Centers today by calling 866-204-7306 or contact us online to learn more.