In late 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) declared child and teen mental health a national emergency. Childhood mental health concerns rose between 2010 and 2020, and suicide is now the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10–24.
If you’ve ever worried about your teen’s mental health, you’re not alone. Knowing how to protect your child best and keep them healthy in today’s society can be overwhelming for parents.
Keep reading to learn about the unique mental health challenges teens face and how to recognize the signs that your child may need help from a behavioral health professional.
Why is talking about teen mental health important?
From the physical changes during adolescence to the pressures of growing up, being a teenager has always been challenging. But growing up with the internet and social media—not to mention COVID-19, climate change, and many other issues—makes it especially hard for today’s young people to cope.
According to the AAP, some of the significant pressures teens face today include:
- Pressure to get good grades or get into a good college
- The need to be a “superstar” in sports or other activities
- Busy schedules that don’t give them enough time for rest and fun
- Bullying (in person, on social media, or both)
- Fears about climate change or other global problems
- Discrimination (based on race, gender, sexual orientation, weight, religion, disability, or other factors)
- Poverty or lack of money for safe, stable housing or food
Stressing about one (or more) of these pressures doesn’t necessarily mean your child is struggling with their mental health. But while teenagers are known for their moodiness, don’t push away concerns about your child if you have them. Your teen could be dealing with a mental health condition and need help from a professional.
Signs of anxiety and depression in teens
If your child has a cough or a scraped knee, the problem is obvious. As a parent, you can give them cough medicine or put a bandage on their injury. But when it comes to teen mental health problems, the pain and other symptoms your child is experiencing are invisible.
Depression and anxiety are the two most common mental health conditions for adults and teens. While they can sometimes be hard to spot, there are some signs you can watch for.
Symptoms of anxiety in children and teens can include:
- Being uptight and very tense
- Seeking reassurance frequently
- Extreme worry
- Avoiding certain situations
- Changes in appetite
- Anger, aggression, irritability
- Physical symptoms (fast heart rate, quick breathing, shaking, dizziness, sweating)
Symptoms of depression in children and teens can include:
- Feeling sad, anxious, worthless, or “empty”
- Losing interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Getting easily frustrated, irritable, or angry
- Withdrawing from friends or family
- Falling behind in school or grades dropping
- Eating or sleeping more or less than usual
- Fatigue or memory loss
- Thoughts about suicide or harming themselves
If your teen is showing some of the symptoms above, talk to their doctor or pediatrician or schedule an appointment with a licensed behavioral health professional who can properly diagnose their condition and recommend treatment options.
When to get help immediately
If you’re worried your child might harm themselves or someone else, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Or use the Lifeline Chat. Services are free and confidential. (If the threat is immediate, call 911.)
How to support your child’s mental health
If your teen is showing signs of anxiety or depression, there are things you can do to support them. Checking in with them often and letting them talk openly about their feelings can open the door to healing.
Here are a few tips for creating a safe space for your teen to open up about their mental health:
- Create a judgment-free zone. Often, kids and teens don’t tell their parents or caregivers when something is bothering them because they’re afraid of being lectured or getting in trouble. If you want your child to be open with you about their feelings and things going on in their life, let them know you love and support them no matter what, and you’re always on their side.
- Let them talk—and really listen. It can be hard for adults to listen to teenagers without wanting to interject their thoughts or ideas about what they’re saying. To gain your teen’s trust, let them talk without interrupting or trying to “fix” every problem they talk to you about.
- Don’t attack them about their behavior. If your teen is suddenly more moody or acting differently, instead of saying, “What’s your problem lately?” or “You need to act better,” try approaching them with calm curiosity. For example: “I’ve noticed you’ve been in your room a lot more lately. Is everything okay? Anything I can do to help?”
- Give them time and space. If you’re worried about your child, it’s okay to let them know that. But if they’re not quite ready to talk about what’s bothering them, give them some time. Unless you think they’re in danger, give them a little space and let them come to you when they’re ready to talk. Pushing too hard could cause them to become more closed off.
Remember that when your teen is dealing with a mental health problem, it’s not your fault—and it’s not theirs. Think of teen mental health conditions the same way you do about any other health condition. When your child isn’t well, getting them the help they need to feel better is important.
Teen mental health treatment at LMH
Are you worried about your teen? We can help.
The experienced team of behavioral health providers at Logansport Memorial Hospital can talk with you and your teen about the feelings and symptoms they’re experiencing. They will work with you and your child to create a treatment plan to help them get well.