The teenage years are no easy feat no matter what. They are dealing with hormones, body changes, a demanding social scene, grades, and the impending pressure of leaving the nest. In our current world, teens are also facing one more curveball which can make adolescence even harder to deal with—mental illness. If you have a teen in your life, this article can help you understand the prevalence of teenage mental illnesses and what you can do to support them.
One in five teens has a mental illness today
You may be surprised to learn that 20 percent of the U.S. youth between the ages of 9 and 17 have a diagnosable mental health disorder that causes some impairment while 10 percent are significantly impaired by a disorder.1What kind of mental illnesses should you be aware of in teenagers? The most common disorders are related to attention, anxiety, and mood. For example, depression, anxiety, and attention-deficit-hyperactive-disorder (ADHD) often first emerge during adolescence.2 So what should you do if a teen in your life is struggling and you are worried?
4 ways to help guide the way to mental health
It can be challenging to know what is normal teen behavior and what is not, especially in these unprecedented times. If you have any concerns, here are four steps you can take.
1. Consult a mental health professional
In the case of mental health, it’s better to be safe than sorry. More than half of teens who have psychiatric disorders don’t receive any treatment, leaving them struggling alone.3 So if your teen is showing some changes in behavior that have raised red flags in your mind, talk with a professional. It doesn’t have to be a “big deal” in the house but just a preventative action to ensure all is well. If a disorder is identified, then it can be taken from there.
2. Provide a healthy home environment
You can also take other steps to help support your teen. Ensure your home is a warm and positive environment for them. Establish responsibilities, boundaries, a reliable framework, and trust. Support them in their endeavors, encourage autonomy, and help them develop healthy habits that will serve them in life.
3. Instill life skills
A great way to help a teen establish autonomy and confidence is by teaching them life skills that are not taught at school. Help them learn how to earn, save, and manage money, cook, repair things around the house, take care of their car, and manage their time. These skills will help them feel confident about stepping out on their own as a young adult, which can help to ease anxieties they don’t even know they have.
4. Build a support network
Lastly, it can be helpful for teens to participate in prevention/support programs that help to build emotional well-being while discouraging substance abuse. Also, encourage a positive network of peers.
It’s important for teens to learn constructive mental health habits including coping, resilience, good judgment, and money management while living in a supportive environment where they feel safe. Additionally, learning what to look for and keeping a close relationship with the adolescents in your life will help you spot warning signs early and provide the support they need right away.
Below you’ll find a list of additional resources that can help you learn more about mental health in adolescents and how to best help those who may be at risk.
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2020-104920 Exp 7/2022
- WHO Adolescent mental health fact sheet
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
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This article does not provide medical or mental health advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of the information presented.