Mental health is a hot discussion topic these days. There is a lot of focus placed on adult mental health, but what about adolescent mental health? Your child’s mental health can impact their brain development, social life, relationships, and future health. Mental health is always important, but it is especially critical when big changes occur, such as going back to school. The pressures of being an adolescent are not small, and therefore your child’s mental health requires as much support as possible.
Many changes occur during adolescence, from relationships shared with friends to mental, emotional, and physical changes that result from otherwise normal development. The stress that comes with school is yet another change that must be considered. Needless to say, it’s not easy being a kid, especially when it feels like things are constantly changing.
These kinds of consistent pressures can severely impact the happiest, youngest of adolescents. This is why it is so important for your child’s mental health to be supported. No one is immune to the pressures of life. The sooner people – especially kids – feel supported, the sooner they can heal healthily.
It may be difficult to determine if your child’s mental health needs help, especially since there are so many other factors that could contribute to mood and personality changes. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) advises, “In general, consider seeking help if your child’s behavior persists for a few weeks or longer; causes distress for your child or your family; or interferes with your child’s functioning at school, at home, or with friends.” Furthermore, the NIMH explains, “If your child’s behavior is unsafe, or if your child talks about wanting to hurt themselves or someone else, seek help immediately.”
If your child is not immediately in danger, you can reach out to a licensed professional counselor (LPC) who specializes in adolescent health. This way, the LPC will be able to help your child process their feelings and emotions while also equipping them with tools for healthy coping skills. It might also be beneficial to look for LPCs who practice trauma-informed care, like the ones at Sage Recovery. This ensures that your child will be treated with dignity and care as they heal from the hard things they’ve been through.
NIMH also details that warning signs of abnormal adolescent behavior can vary, depending on the child’s age.
For young adolescents, warning signs may include:
For older adolescents, warning signs may include:
Though it may be difficult to admit to yourself that your child needs assistance, you are their best advocate for getting help. When dealing with adolescent mental health, early intervention is crucial. As the NIMH confirms, “For a young person with symptoms of a mental disorder, the earlier treatment is started, the more effective it can be. Early treatment can help prevent more severe, lasting problems as a child grows up.”
One practical way you can support your child’s mental health is by making sure they have someone they can talk to. This may be a school counselor, coach, LPC, or mentor. Children don’t always feel comfortable telling their parents every detail of their lives. As a result, it’s important to make sure they have healthy relationships with others who can help them navigate the complexities of life.
Additionally, it’s also important to keep lines of communication open between you and your child. They may not want to share much, but your child must know they are going to be supported and loved, no matter what they’re going through. Sometimes just knowing that you’re on their team is enough to empower them to make healthy choices.
The NIMH also suggests, “It may be helpful for children and teens to save several emergency numbers to their cell phones. The ability to get immediate help for themselves or for a friend can make a difference.” These phone numbers may include:
Another way to support your child’s mental health is by ensuring they have healthy outlets to express themself. This will look different for every child, as maturity, hobbies, and talents vary for every person.
Some children may turn toward sports and physical activity. Statistics consistently show a positive correlation between physical activity and mental health. This does not mean that physical activity should be a substitute for getting help from a clinician. However, it may be beneficial for your child to have the opportunity to mentally escape or build a name for themselves by joining a sports team with peers their age.
Additionally, your child may prefer more creative activities. Creative arts methods are also known to be a healthy outlet for people. Methods such as music therapy and art therapy are effective therapeutic techniques in which people can express themselves without verbally saying words. Moreover, some treatment centers, like Sage Recovery, offer group therapy sessions in which they learn to express their feelings through music or art.
No matter what your child is going through, hope and help are available. Growing up can be really difficult, but it doesn’t have to be done alone. Here at Sage Recovery, our licensed clinicians specialize in helping people, including adolescents, heal healthily. Whether your child is struggling with their mental health or substance use, we’re here to help. Our outpatient adolescent program, as well as our adolescent intensive outpatient program, can help equip your child with the tools they need to be healthy. We also provide group therapy as well as family therapy. Whatever your child needs to heal, we can help. Reach out to us at (512) 306-1394 to find out more information.