Mental Health & Teens: Signs to Watch for

The adolescent years are not easy for the teen, nor the parents. In today's world, adolescents encounter so many problems and pressures that can be overwhelming along with the normal transitions of just growing up. For many teenagers, these and other pressures can lead to one or more of a variety of mental health disorders; all are matters of concern, and some are life-threatening. One out of five adolescents has a diagnosable mental health disorder; this includes depression, anxiety,  severe behavior problem and eating disorders. Unfortunately, only less than 50 percent of teenagers receive any help.

MAJOR KEY ALERT! Parents, Mentors, or Big Sisters.... these next four tips are for you. 

  1. Keep communication constant, open, and honest.

Don't let them feel more comfortable venting on Snapchat, Instagram or whatever the latest social media trend is. Your child/mentee/little sister should not only know that they can talk to you about anything, you have to be committed to broaching topics of concern and do so openly. Be sure to share your experiences. As much as we think times have changed, our experiences & testimonies can assure they are not alone.  

2. Understand that mental health disorders are treatable.

Educate yourself. Understand that if your adolescent has a mental disorder - they aren't weird. The most common disorders for adolescents resemble normal teen behavior. This is why it's so important to arm yourself with information; speak with your child’s pediatrician, your local health department, your religious leader, and your child’s school representatives about what sorts of information are available to you for them.

3. Be attentive to your teen’s behavior. 

We all know adolescence is, indeed, a time of transition and change, but severe, dramatic, or abrupt changes in behavior can be strong indicators of serious mental health issues. Some Red Flags include: 

  • Excessive sleeping, beyond usual teenage fatigue, which could indicate depression or substance abuse; difficulty in sleeping, insomnia, and other sleep disorders

  • Loss of self-esteem

  • Abandonment or loss of interest in favorite pastimes

  • The unexpected and dramatic decline in academic performance

  • Weight loss and loss of appetite, which could indicate an eating disorder

  • Personality shifts and changes, such as aggressiveness and excess anger that are sharply out of character and could indicate psychological, drug, or sexual problems. 

If there's even a bit of concern about your adolescent’s mental health, it should first be addressed with your child — fostering open communication goes a long way toward fostering sound adolescent mental health habits.