Helping your teen battle mental health

Parenting a teen is far from easy, but being a teen isn’t easy either. Many times as a parent, it can be hard to tell when your teen is just being an angsty teenager, or when they might need help dealing with school work, peer pressure, life in general, addictive substances or symptoms of mental health.

It is important to keep communication open between you and your young adult, and staying open-minded about your child’s feelings or concerns. Monitoring your child’s mental health isn’t as easy as using a thermometer to take their temperature.

What is mental illness? Mental illnesses are disorders of brain function. They can affect your mood, thinking and behavior. Some examples include depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders and addictive behaviors.

Mental illnesses in general are thought to be caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors. They can be inherited traits, environmental exposures before birth or poor brain chemistry. Certain factors may increase your risk of developing mental health problems. Those risks can include by are not limited to abuse, alcohol or recreational drugs, traumatic experiences, traumatic brain injury or chronic medical conditions.

It is totally normal for teens to experience a wide range of emotions, but there are times when parents should intervene. If there are specific concerns, your child’s pediatrician can be a helpful resource. The pediatrician can support you and your child by understanding the physical, emotional and social challenges your child might be facing. Questions can be asked and answered during any routine check-up or scheduled appointment.

Make sure you are talking to your child about what will be discussed with the pediatrician so you don’t catch them off guard. Encourage them to be open and truthful during their visit. It’s important to provide specific examples of behavior that concern you. Pediatricians will know how to look for symptoms of mental health disorders properly.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 34. Teens may be struggling with difficulties that parents may not be aware of. Bullying, a break-up, loss of a friend and abuse can be embarrassing topics for teens to talk about with their parents. Which is another reason it is so important to keep communications lines open between teens and their parents.

If your teen is showing signs of mental illness, have an open and honest discussion with him or her about your concerns. You may be able to offer them professional care, encouragement and support.

DREAM, one of the Midwest’s well-known youth mentoring organizations, provides life-changing and life-enriching experiences to at-risk youth through mentoring and after-school programs in Omaha, Nebraska, and Springfield, Missouri. Their proven approach puts children in a comfortable setting where they’re encouraged to discuss openly, learn, and grow as individuals. Are you interested in getting involved with DREAM? Contact us today.