Every generation tends to be different when it comes to facing up to certain challenges and coping with new phenomenons that are now part of our lives like social media pressure.
On a basic level, these challenges are really the same struggles that have had a meaningful impact on many teenager’s lives but just different versions adapted to an ever-changing world.
Bullying has evolved to cyberbullying and peer pressure, body shaming, and negative self-perception issues are the sort of things that may have visited your life as a teenager and now you have to find a way to guide your teen through this same emotional jungle.
The list of mental health issues that can affect your teen is a long one and each person is unique in the way that these pressure affect them and how they cope or fail to contend with these traumatic circumstances and pressures.
One thing that is certain is that a good number of the challenges that adolescents face can have a detrimental impact on their mental health.
As a parent, you will want to understand what your teen is going through and be able to offer them guidance on how to cope with these problems without resorting to drugs and self-harming as a way of dealing with the pressure they are feeling at this emotionally-challenging chapter in their life.
Parents need to know the telltale signs that their teen is struggling to cope or has resorted to drug abuse as a coping mechanism.
Here is a look at the key signs that you need to look out for and some tips and information on how to help your teen stay in positive control of their mental health.
What are the odds?
Figures compiled by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) suggest that about 20% of all teens either have or are likely to have a serious mental illness between the ages of 13 and 18.
This covers issues such as anxiety disorders, mood swings, and behavioral problems.
Your teen needs the sort of parental support that lets them know they are not facing their struggles alone and that you are there to support them through this difficult time. It is equally important that parents also have a support network they can call upon.
It is important that you and your teen both appreciate that help is there when you need it when you are forced to deal with a mental health issue and are exploring your treatment options.
More Common Than You Might Realize
It is only natural as a parent to want to think that mental health problems won’t visit your family if you offer your children a safe and secure home environment but the stark reality is that mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders, for example, affect thousands of teenagers throughout the country each and every year.
As you can see from these highlighted statistics, mental health issues are a clear and present danger to your teen and you will want to be there to help them cope.
Spotting the warning signs
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to be sure that your teen has a mental health problem and they may try to hide their problems from you.
There are definitely some clues that you can look out for and if you know some of the common nonverbal cues and physical signs that are not often associated with mental illness, you will be in a better place to offer the help that they clearly need at this point.
Here are some of those classic warning signs that parents need to be aware of –
- You observe that your teen is feeling noticeably more anxious or worried
- The frequency of tantrums or periods of irritability are more than you would expect, even allowing for the hormonal challenges your teen will face in their formative years
- Your teen seems to be suffering from regular headaches or stomach pains without any identifiable explanation
- Your teen seems unable to sit still or quietly for any length of time
- They have trouble sleeping and seem to have frequent nightmares
- You notice that they suddenly lose interest in things they have always enjoyed doing
- They withdraw from their social group and seem to avoid spending time with friends
- School grades and performance shows signs of decline
- Your teen talks about their fears of weight gain and seems to diet or exercise excessively
- They seem to suffer from very low energy levels, or alternatively, they have spells of intense and inexhaustible activity
- Signs of self-harming such as cutting or burning their skin
- Appear to be happy to engage in destructive or risky behavior
- Smokes, drinks alcohol or uses drugs
- Talks about having thoughts of suicide
- Your teen believes that their mind is being controlled or is out of control, or they are hearing voices
It can be very difficult distinguishing whether some of your teen’s actions and behaviors are just part of their adolescent adjustment process or whether they are signs and symptoms of a problem that needs discussing with a health professional.
A good guided is often that if their symptoms last weeks or months and are having a noticeable impact on their daily life, this would be an opportune moment to seek some professional guidance.
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Help is out there
A fundamental point that all parents should take on board is that mental illnesses can be treated with the right help and timely intervention.
A good starting point for you as a parent is to have a conversation with your teen in a constructive way that is non-confrontational and is focused on offering them the love and support that they may well need more than ever.
It can be extremely difficult to talk about mental health, but if you approach the subject in the right way and in an appropriate setting or environment, it can help get the problem out in the air and you can discuss a way forward from there.
If you want some help on how to start that conversation with your teen and what to say, the mentalhealth.gov website has some useful pointers on what sort of questions and responses are most conducive to getting a positive response and formulating a plan of action.
You could also consider asking your family doctor or pediatrician for some initial help if you are unsure who to turn to for some help.
When they need immediate help
There may be a situation when your teen needs immediate help and wants to be able to talk to someone urgently.
If you have discussed a potential mental health problem with your teen or want to take a proactive approach because you are concerned that your child might be vulnerable, it makes sense to set up a number of emergency contact numbers on their cell phone.
It would be a good idea to make sure that they have a phone number for a trusted friend or relative they know they can talk to if they are finding it difficult talking to you about their problems because you are their parent.
Saving the non-emergency phone number for the local police department on their phone would also be a good idea as a backup plan.
Other useful contact numbers would be the Crisis Text Line 741741, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800 -273-TALK (8255).
No parent wants their child to become one of the numbers of teens that suffer from a mental illness, but with the right help and support, if this situation becomes a reality for your family, a solution is out there.
You can help your teen overcome a mental health problem and it starts by knowing what to look out for and getting help as soon as possible.