Dealing with Teen Mental Health Issues as a Parent

Parenting Strategies for Supporting Adolescent Mental Health

The numbers are scary: Almost half of all teens experience a mental health issue at some point in their lives. But as a parent, dealing with teen mental health issues can make you feel like you’re trying to parent in totally uncharted waters. Young people who have mental health issues don’t always portray the same clinical symptoms as adults. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult for parents to know how or when to intervene. To make the situation even more treacherous, the stigma associated with having a child with mental or behavioral health problems can be a severe stumbling block. And, even though mental health programs for youth are available, parents often struggle when a teen refuses treatment. As a parent wading through such a murky situation finding guidance can mean recognizing the symptoms and knowing how to act and react.

Recognizing the Symptoms - More than a Behavioral Issue

Behavioral issues are trademark signs of teen mental health issues. These behaviors are commonly blamed on just a “phase” or general teenage attitude problems. Yet, it is these exact outlooks that contribute to the fact that most teens don’t get the treatment they need. For example, over 59 percent of teens with depression don’t get any treatment at all.

In reality, key behavior issues can be critical indicators that your teen needs help with a mental health issue. Additionally, many of the symptoms a teen can portray are telltale indicators that can be related to numerous mental health issues. For example, angry outbursts can be related to bipolar disorder, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and anxiety

Signs of teen mental health issues can include: 

  • Avoiding social interaction 
  • Losing interest in things once enjoyed 
  • Engaging in dangerous or risky behaviors 
  • Experimenting with drugs or alcohol 
  • Performing poorly in school or school activities 
  • Having major mood swings or angry outbursts 
  • Changes in sleep patterns or eating 
  • Talking about, threatening, or romanticizing suicide 

Dealing with a Mentally Unstable Teenager

The first thing to keep in mind is mental health issues among teens are incredibly common. These issues can occur even with the best parenting skills, home life, and support. Therefore, avoid getting yourself trapped in the guilt of feeling like the illness is your fault. Not only are mental health issues multifaceted with many underlying causes, but these conditions can also be highly treatable. You can quickly lose valuable energy by getting caught in the blame game. Instead, focus on staying calm, offering support, and taking action.

If you suspect your teen needs mental health treatment, talk to your child. Remember, your emotions can influence your teen’s reaction. If you’re distraught, feeling like you are to blame, or even angry, your teen may absorb and reflect these same sentiments. Strive to stay level-headed and calm. Offer observations and be open to input. Don’t imply your guilt or their fault. Simply be an observant supporter who wants to help.

Lastly, remember, dealing with a teen that has mental health issues can be stressful. Be sure to take time to care for yourself and your own emotional well-being. Consider connecting with a group of supporting parents, talking to a therapist, and taking some time purely for yourself when you feel overwhelmed.

Mental Health Programs for Youth

Numerous mental health programs for youth have been proven to be successful. The type, structure, and options that will benefit a teen the most is a highly individualized thing that relies on the teen, the suspected issues, the level of risk, and more. For this reason, it can be a good idea to speak to a mental health professional or organization with family advisers that specialize in finding the right type of care for each child. 

A few treatment options may include: 

How the Stigma Surrounding Behavioral Health Prevents Treatment

The stigma associated with teen mental health issues can affect both teens and their parents. Parents naturally feel like they should be able to “fix” their child or like they are somehow failing if their teen needs help.

Teens can feel embarrassed because of judgment from peers or avoid treatment for fear of being deemed as “crazy” or somehow incapable. While the stigma can be difficult to navigate, it is important to recognize that these preconceived notions are not reality. Many teens struggle and many parents have to help their teens find treatment.

When therapy fails ... 

Therapy is often a starting point when teens show signs of mental health woes. However, therapy is not always a cure. Some teens need more intense levels of therapy, and that is perfectly fine.

If your teen does not do well with counseling or therapy, it is a good idea to consider a more therapeutic approach, such as residential care.

Find the Right Residential Treatment Program for Your Teen Now

Residential treatment offers a unique solution to teens who have not responded well to traditional counseling. It provides more intensive therapy, 24/7 supervision, and a supportive environment that can help your teen heal and start a new journey on the path to emotional wellbeing. Discover how residential treatment can make a difference in your teen's life today!

When your teen refuses treatment ...

It is extremely common for adolescents to deflect, claim they don’t need help, or simply outright refuse treatment. As a parent, this situation can be difficult. However, you have to remember that the final decision to seek treatment does fall on your shoulders. In the event your child is a danger to themselves or their future, reach out to a mental health professional or adviser to find out what steps to take.
teenagers with depression

Benefits of Addressing Issues Now to Have a Better-Adjusted Adult

Addressing mental health issues during the teenage years can come with unique challenges for both your child and you. However, the earlier these issues are addressed, the less likely it will be that the behavioral problems or the condition itself bleeds into adulthood. Children with mental health issues grow into adults with those same issues when there is no intervention. Unfortunately, adults don’t always have the safety net of their parents when they struggle with things like relationships, maintaining stable employment, or taking care of themselves. Therefore, the struggles can get bigger as a child gets older. And, the decisions made right now can easily influence what the future looks like.

Are you struggling as a parent because you suspect your teen has mental health issues? At Risk Youth Programs is here for you. Take the Teen Behavior Test to get started or contact us to speak to a family adviser.

Speak to an expert about Dealing with Teen Mental Health Issues as a Parent and how it may help your child.

Connect with an Admissions Counselor who specializes in Dealing with Teen Mental Health Issues as a Parent to help your teen begin their recovery today.

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