“Back in my day…” may be an all too familiar phrase when it comes to dealing with the issues that now face today’s youth. Everything from technology to social interaction has changed in the past decade and most so in the the past 30 or 40 years. Things aren’t exactly as they were when you were a child but that doesn’t mean your children aren’t facing the same problems you did when you were in middle school or high school. The truth is, it’s hard to be a kid and most young people will deal with the negative effects of peer pressure, bullying, body shaming and negative self-perfection throughout their school years (and much longer if not addressed). Thankfully, the conversation about mental health issues and teen counseling for depression are finally becoming normalized and not stigmatized throughout the world. People are beginning to understand that “depression’ isn’t just simply ‘feeling sad’ for a moment and it a chemical imbalance in our brains. They (adults and younger generations) are accepting that no matter your social group or the wealth of love or money that you come from, you can still deal with the effects of depression. The old rebuttals of “Well she’s so popular, how could she be sad?” or “He’s not depressed, his dad is rich and he gets whatever he wants.” or “She’s just on her period.” are finally falling to the wayside.
Finally, we are seeing open discussion and parents who want to understand their child’s mental health and how to keep it, well, healthy. Mental health in teens is more than just battling negative thoughts or depression, it’s also the battle to not choose coping mechanisms like drug use or alcohol abuse. You may remember a time as a young adult and your own struggles with mental health. You also might recall that you didn’t have much in the way of healthy coping mechanisms or worse, that you felt too shy, nervous or embarrassed to ask for help with dealing with your feelings. There are plenty of adults your age who grew up with parents who didn’t believe in being emotional or didn’t believe in the real struggles and dangers of battling depression alone. It’s time to change that with your own children. How do you help your teen if you aren’t sure what the signs are? Looking at the big picture 20 percent of teens ranging from 13 years old to 18 will have or currently are dealing with a serious mental illness (National Institute of Mental Health). These can include things anxiety disorders and, behavior and mood disorders.
Despite the large numbers of teens dealing with mental health illnesses, there are ways to help. One of the first ways to help your teens is to understand the potential warning signs. It’s no easy feat to understand your teen’s issues. You are likely already used to slamming doors, huffy silences and moody hair whipping, you may even chalk it down to “they’re just being a teenager”. There are certain things to keep an eye out for such as eating habits shifting (excessive calorie restriction or unwillingness to eat). You may also notice things like frequent mood swings or a child that is always exhausted or oversleeping. Another subtle sign is wearing items of clothing that intentionally cover the arms or legs (which would be to hide signs of).
As a parent, you should educate yourself on mental illnesses if you aren’t already. This will help you to better understand what to look out for and how to accurately start coping with it. Additionally, start talking openly about it to your children. Don’t allow it to be a taboo or embarrassing subject, it shouldn’t be something that’s discussed in hushed tones. Ignoring or refusing to discuss what your child might be going through or brushing it off is not the way to help your child. You may think that your life is a bigger struggle than you child’s, which in some ways it very much is. However, you should always keep in mind the struggles you may have encountered in your childhood or watched your young friend battle. Your child may be dealing with entirely real issues that are affecting their everyday lives. Creating an open dialog will allow your child to feel comfortable bringing up their feelings or problems with suicidal thoughts, anxiety, and depression. You should also be able to have open conversations about drug and alcohol abuse. Just like when you were a teen, your teen is going to be subject to peer pressure and put in the presence of drugs or alcohol. This could lead to experimentation. Have a conversation about the dangers of alcohol and drugs but don’t frame it as a confrontation. That’s the quickest way for your teen to shut down and stop listening.
If you believe, or know, that your child is dealing with mental health issues or drug addiction you can always reach out to Insight Treatment to learn more about our programs and admissions process (888) 295-9995.