The number of teens who suffer from depression has increased dramatically over the last decade. In fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 4.1 million, or 17% of adolescents, experienced major depressive disorders in 2020. It means that millions of teens across America are struggling with their mental health every day.
So, it’s essential to recognize the signs of depression early on because untreated depression can cause serious problems later in life. If you suspect your teen might be experiencing some mental health issues, talk to them about it. They may benefit from seeing a counselor or therapist.
This guide will help you understand teen mental health, its signs and symptoms, and how to get help for your child.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health is the state of being mentally healthy. It includes having a positive outlook on life, feeling good about oneself, and not suffering from any mental illness.
Unfortunately, many mental health problems start during childhood or adolescence that arise from trauma or other unfortunate experiences that affect them negatively. These include:
- Anxiety disorders
- Mood disorders
- Eating disorders
- Substance abuse
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
The most common mental illnesses among teenagers are depression and anxiety. Fortunately, you can find mental healthcare providers such as counselors and therapists at https://www.insightnorthwest.com/therapist-bend-oregon and other sites that work with people with these conditions.
Teen Depression Signs And Symptoms
Teenage depression often goes undiagnosed until after the first episode occurs. However, some warning signs should make parents and teachers aware of the possibility of depression:
- Changes in sleep patterns: Teens who have trouble sleeping tend to feel tired throughout the day, and when they get to sleep at night, they wake up frequently.
- Loss of interest in activities: A teenager who loses interest in school, friends, sports, hobbies, and other activities usually feel sad and down.
- Irritability: Teens who become angry easily often feel irritable. They also have difficulty controlling their emotions.
- Low self-esteem: Teens who don’t think highly of themselves often believe others dislike them.
- Suicidal thoughts: Teens who have suicidal thoughts often say things like ‘I wish I were dead’ or ‘If only I could die.’
Helping Your Child With Their Mental Health
If you observe these depression signs and symptoms in your child, don’t panic. There are different practical ways to help your teenager feel better. Some of the best practices include the following:
- Talk To Your Kids About Mental Health
Talking openly about mental health issues is vital in helping teenagers develop coping skills. You can start by talking to your kids about what’s going on in their lives. Ask questions like, ‘How was school today?’ and ‘Is there anything you want to tell me?’
Small changes in conversation can make a big difference. Try asking open-ended questions instead of yes-or-no questions. For example, instead of saying, ‘Are you doing some homework tonight?’ say, ‘I noticed you were studying at dinner time. What did you study?’
Regular meal times can be a great way to discuss mental health. Have family dinners every night, and try to eat together, so everyone has a chance to share their feelings.
2. Keep An Eye On Their Social Media
Social media can be a tool for connecting with family members and friends. But when used inappropriately, social media can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, which are typical teenage problems nowadays.
Monitoring your teen’s online activity can give you insight into their feelings. Do they spend too much time on their phones and social media? Do they seem indifferent or lonely?
Teenagers usually leave trails of information on social media sites. If you see something suspicious, take action. If the issue is rooted in bullying, it will help to speak with your child’s teacher or principal.
3. Stay In Touch With Their School
Another way to keep tabs on your teen’s mental health is to stay connected with their school. Find out if there are any programs available to help your child cope with stress.
Ask your child’s guidance counselor if there are any groups or clubs that might benefit your child or if they notice any signs of trouble. Doing so may help you get the support your teen needs. It’ll also be an excellent avenue to find a support group for them.
4. Find A Support Group For Them
Finding a support group for teenagers dealing with mental illness can be helpful. These groups are comprised of other teens who understand what it’s like to deal with similar problems.
Mental health organizations like Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offer support group programs. You may also check with your local healthcare provider for resources.
5. Talk About Your Feelings
Talking about your feelings can be difficult, but it’s essential to understand your teenager’s emotions. Feeling sad or angry is normal after hearing about another person’s struggles. However, you should never let these feelings control your actions.
Try not to react negatively to your child’s behavior. Instead, think about how you would handle the situation yourself. Doing this could help you better understand why your child acted this way.
6. Be Open To New Ideas
Listening to someone else’s ideas can help you gain new perspectives. Don’t hesitate to express your opinion when talking to your teen about mental health issues.
Try to avoid advising unless asked directly. Instead, listen carefully and then respond by sharing your thoughts.
7. Get Help From A Professional
If your teen seems to be experiencing severe depression, it’s best to talk to a professional. You can find a counselor or therapist for your child with the help of your insurance provider. Many companies offer free counseling services for teens.
Another option is to ask your local school district if it has a mental health clinic. Some schools even provide free counseling services to students.
Getting Counseling For Teens: Why Is It Important?
Teenagers often struggle with their mental health. They’re undergoing many life changes, making them vulnerable to emotional distress. That’s why getting counseling for teenagers is vital.
Here are reasons why it’s vital to seek counseling for teenagers:
- Helps Them Deal With Stressful Situations
Stress is one of the teenagers’ most common causes of anxiety and depression. By helping them learn how to manage stressful situations, counselors can help them develop coping skills. Through therapy, teenagers will learn how to identify and overcome negative emotions.
For example, when your child experiences stress from homework assignments, they can use time management techniques to stay focused and complete the work. These skills will also help them cope with future challenges.
2. Guides Them On How To Manage Their Emotions
Another reason counseling is so important for teenagers is that they need guidance on managing their emotions. They go through many stages and emotions during adolescence, including anger, sadness, and frustration.
Counselors can teach your child how to recognize their emotions and communicate them effectively. They can also give tips on how to deal with these emotions.
3. Improves Their Social Skills
Counseling also helps improve social skills. Your child may have trouble making friends because of shyness or a lack of confidence. Your child can learn how to interact with others more confidently through counseling. They can practice being assertive and open up to people.
Counseling is also a way to teach your child about healthy relationships. When your teens go through puberty, they begin to experience romantic feelings. It’s an exciting but challenging time for young adults.
Through counseling, your child can benefit from learning about healthy relationships. They can understand what makes a relationship successful and what doesn’t.
4. Allows Them To Talk About Issues
One reason you should get counseling for teenagers is that it allows you to discuss issues that might be bothering your child. If you notice any signs of depression or other problems, you can bring them up with your teen’s therapist.
It allows you to address any concerns you have regarding your child’s behavior. You can also share your feelings and worries.
5. Helps Your Child Develop A Healthy Self-Image
A lot of teens suffer from low self-esteem. They might feel like failures because of grades, appearance, or personality traits.
Counseling helps your child build a positive self-image. They learn that there are things they can do to change their life.
6. Improves Academic Performance And Career Choices
Counseling can also help your child improve academic performance. It can help them understand the importance of studying and focusing on schoolwork.
Teenagers also often struggle with choosing a career path. They don’t know where they want to go after high school. Counseling can help your child explore options and make decisions. It can also help them find ways to balance school and work.
7. Teaches Them Essential Life Lessons
As your child grows older, they’ll face many new challenges. Counseling teaches your child lessons in dealing with those challenges.
For example, they can learn how to budget and save if they have difficulty managing money. If your child struggles with peer pressure, they can develop strategies to resist negative influences.
As your child goes through puberty, they become aware of the world around them. They start thinking about sex, relationships, careers, and life overall. They also encounter emotions and feelings that are new to them. By getting counseling, your child can gain insight into their body and mind changes and learn how to cope with them.
If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, talk to your doctor. Together, you can decide whether counseling is right for your child and your family.