The teenage years are key to your child’s development. This is a time of fast growth and major changes, and it can be as difficult as it is exciting. Unfortunately, adolescence and late adolescence often bring more than fast-changing bodies — these years can also bring mental health issues.
While virtually all of us going through these years experience heightened emotional states and sensitivity, mental health issues of the sort that we’re talking about here go beyond the mood swings of the healthy teenage experience.
Depression, anxiety, and teen health
Depression rates among teens are high and, according to many experts, are on the rise. Depression is much more than just being “sad.” The condition is characterized by hopelessness, apathy, and despair (all much different than being temporarily sad). The consequences of teen depression can be dire. Experts tell us that, tragically, one teen takes his or her life every 100 minutes.
Depression is common; anxiety is even more so. Experts believe that anxiety disorders affect more than 1 out of every 4 children between the ages of 13 and 18. That’s a stunning and frightening statistic, but also a good reminder for those of us whose families are affected that we are not alone.
Substance abuse, which is often related to one or both of the conditions we’ve already talked about, is also rampant among teens. From illegal drugs to underaged drinking, teens face a lot of pressure and can all too easily become addicts. Even substances not generally considered to be “physically addicting,” like marijuana, can foster emotional and psychological dependence.
And this list is by no means exhaustive. From obsessive-compulsive disorders to personality disorders, mental health can become an issue for our children and our families in countless ways.
Caring for your child
The most important thing a parent can do for a child’s mental health is to listen and to pay attention. This means supporting your children when they share things. It also means keeping a careful eye out for symptoms of serious mental health issues.
Familiarize yourself with the signs of teenage depression and the symptoms of other mental illnesses. Keep tabs on warning signs like an apparent lack of interest or joy in something your teen once loved. When in doubt, seek help fast.
Your primary care physician can be your first stop when you need help, say experts at a healthcare center in Norwalk, CT. From there, a referral or research on your own can help you find a mental health professional who will talk to you and your child.
Your mental health provider is your primary ally in the fight to protect your child’s mental health. He or she will walk you and your teen through options that may include online therapy (BetterHelp), medication, and lifestyle changes. Another option is rehab, explain the experts who run Polaris Teen depression rehab. Rehab can be enormously helpful to teens dealing with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse issues (among other problems). A change of environment can prompt a change of perspective, and having the time and the space to focus on mental health can make it easier for teens to find their way.
Every situation is different, but one thing is always true about caring for your teen’s mental health: It’s not something that you have to do alone. Teaming up with a professional mental health care provider will make your life easier and give you and your child a better chance at the best possible outcome. There’s a bright future ahead, so reach out to a trusted psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist to start making your way towards it.