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Mental health and teens

By Jennifer Bridge

 We hear a lot about the teenage years being difficult and since March we have totally altered our way of life which has significantly impacted them. No prom, no high school graduation, no hanging out with friends. During this stage in their life, teens experience all kinds of changes, which can include physical and hormonal changes as well as emotional and social changes. The pressures and problems that teens encounter can be overwhelming for both the teens and their parents. For many teens, these pressures can lead to a number of mental health issues. No matter how small or big it may seem to us, any mental health issue for a teen should be taken seriously. Some mental health issues can even be life-threatening if proper treatment is not received. Here are some important tips for parents and adults.

Key Tips for Parents

• Keep communication open and honest. Let your teen know that they can talk to you about anything. You may have to be the one who brings up the tough topics and the concerns. Bring these difficult conversations up in an open and warm way to show your teen that you care. Let them know that you are not afraid to talk about the tough stuff. Tell them about your own experiences and fears from when you were young. This can help them to realize they are not alone. Let them know their fears are not unique. You can even help them connect with others who have had a similar experience. Social media can serve a positive purpose when helping to connect teens to support and resources.

• Always remember that mental health disorders can be treated. Educate yourself about the most common mental health disorders among teens. Speak with local pediatricians and the local health department. Talk with faith-based staff and school or other staff who work with teens. Find out what types of information are available from them that can be helpful.

• Pay close attention to your teen’s behavior. The teen years are a time of big changes. However, a marked change in what is typical for an individual can be a warning sign. Dramatic changes in behavior or mood can be a warning sign of a moderate or serious mental health issue.

• Excessive sleeping, difficulty sleeping, or other sleep problems could possibly indicate depression or substance abuse.

• Loss of self-esteem or loss of interest in favorite activities or hobbies could indicate depression or drug problems.

• An unexpected and dramatic drop in academic performance could indicate psychological or drug problems.

• Weight loss, weight gain, or loss of appetite could indicate an eating disorder.

• Personality shifts and changes, such as extreme anger that is not typical for an individual, could indicate psychological or drug problems.

Mental Health Danger Signs

 If you have concerns about your teen’s mental health, address them first with your child. Use and encourage open, honest communication. It can be very helpful for promoting healthy mental health habits for a teen. If your concerns are serious, bring them up with your teen’s pediatrician. It is common for mental health issues to first show up as physical signs. Examples may include frequent stomach problems and headaches. A pediatrician can do an initial medical assessment. They can also refer you to appropriate mental health organizations. Finally, they can provide a referral to a professional for counseling and treatment if needed.

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