When your child has been diagnosed with a mental health condition, it can make you question your parenting. However, mental illness isn’t your fault, or your family’s. While researchers are just now beginning to piece together the factors that cause mental health issues, there is much information about how you can help your teen to heal.
Which Mental Health Concerns Are Common in Teens?
Unfortunately, mental illness is common among teens and young adults. Half of all lifetime mental illnesses develop by the age of 14; 75% develop by the age of 24. Recent research suggests that these problems are on the rise. Rates of mood disorders and suicide-related outcomes have increased significantly over the last decade within these age groups.
Because the young adult brain is still growing, it differs from that of an adult who is fully developed. Adolescents have heightened reward systems, raging hormones, lower inhibitions, and a completely different approach to learning than their adult counterparts. Nearly one in five young adults are affected by mental illness. Issues that may prompt parental intervention include:
- Depression (major depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder)
- Anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, phobias)
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Mood disorders
- Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Behavioral problems
- Eating disorders (bulimia, anorexia, binge eating)
- Grief & loss
- Parent-child relationships
While some of the above mental health concerns may be present in childhood, they often cannot be diagnosed until adolescence or later.
First Signs & Symptoms of Mental Illness
Before you can take action, it is vital to identify the cause of your concern. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has put together a list of ten common mental health warning signs. Be sure that you and your teen are both aware of these symptoms – if they begin to worsen, or if more develop, consider seeking help from a licensed professional.
- Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks
- Seriously trying to harm or kill oneself (or making plans to do so)
- Severe out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors
- Sudden, overwhelming fear (for no reason)
- Not eating, throwing up, or using laxatives to lose weight; significant weight loss or weight gain
- Seeing, believing, or hearing things that are not real
- Repeatedly using drugs or alcohol
- Drastic changes in mood, personality, behavior, or sleeping habits
- Extreme difficulty in staying still or concentrating
- Intense fears or worries that get in the way of daily activities
My Teen Has a Mental Illness – Now What?
If you have noticed any of the above signs or symptoms, begin by opening a dialogue with your child. Let them know that you are there to help, and that you will support them every step of the way. Certain situational factors like bullying, divorce, or academic difficulties may contribute to their mental state. The more information you have, the more completely you can address the problem.
Getting help early matters. Don’t wait for things to get worse. After speaking with your teen, contact your primary care physician. This visit will serve to rule out physical health conditions that may masquerade as mental health problems. For example, a vitamin D deficiency has many of the same fatigue-related symptoms as depressive disorders. If you need to step out of the room for your teen to be completely honest with their provider, please do so. You never know who or what may have affected them – yourself included.
If no physical issues come to light, it is time to begin focusing on your child’s mental health. Ask your physician for a referral or contact a licensed mental health care professional in your area. Some behavioral health centers, like Pine Grove, provide a vast array of services, including specialized programs for teens and young adults.
Child, Teen, and Adolescent Mental Health Treatment
At Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services, we understand that each age group requires a unique approach to treatment. Our mental health services are comprehensive and delivered by licensed professionals who are experts in their fields.
Inpatient Mental Health Treatment – The Pine Grove Child and Adolescent Unit is a state-of-the-art facility that offers in patient treatment for young people with psychiatric and substance abuse issues. Treatment programming is crafted to address the needs of younger patients and offers classroom support to assist with the studies from the patient’s school.
Outpatient Mental Health Treatment – Not all teens and young adults need to live away from home in order to receive effective mental health care. Our outpatient programming includes outpatient assessments, psychological testing, individual therapy, technology addiction treatment, family therapy, and medication management.
It can be scary to learn that your child is struggling, but there is always hope. For more information about the mental health services offered at Pine Grove, please contact us today. Our helpful staff members are standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We look forward to hearing from you.