I’m not the first to say that teenagers can be difficult, and being the parent of a teen can be a challenge.
But did you know that half of all mental-health conditions emerge in people by the age of 14, and three-fourths by the age of 24? And the number of 12-to-17-year-olds reporting symptoms of clinical depression increased by 37 percent in the 10 years prior to 2014. Those are statistics cited in this recent article in The Seattle Times.
Sometimes, it’s hard to determine the difference between typical teenage behavior and serious mental health issues. That’s why it’s so important for parents to be watchful, to be aware of their teen’s normal routine, to pay attention if any significant changes in conduct occur, and to be a supportive listener that they can always come and talk to.
Some signs to watch for include changes in sleeping habits, appetite/weight, hygiene practices, performance at school, and spending more time alone or with different friends.
If you become worried that your teenager’s behavior could indicate a mental health problem, that’s when it’s time to act. Offer your love and support, and give your son or daughter the opportunity to open up to you. Instead of having a formal parent-to-child talk, the article suggests activities such as cooking dinner together, walking the dog, or taking a drive – anything that would create a comfortable environment in which they can share their feelings.
Seeking help early is important, but it’s not often easy to know where to go. If your health insurer can give you a list of therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists who are accepting new patients, that’s a good place to start. Another option could be to visit a mental-health clinic at a nearby university. The Jed Foundation and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) are also great resources for parents, caregivers, friends, and loved ones who are concerned about their teenagers.
And remember, Courage to Caregivers is here for you, too.
Founder and Executive Director