Advocating for Your Teen’s Mental Health
It is no secret that mental health is a vital part of one’s overall wellness. This is especially true for teenagers as they transition to adulthood. Not only are they facing school struggles, social balance, and new physical and emotional changes, they are going through a vulnerable stage in mental development.
All of these factors play a role in their happiness, stability, and mental health status. Parents need to ensure that teenagers’ mental health is a priority. How do they ensure your teen is caring for their mental health? How can they advocate for their mental health while balancing their various activities?
The Role of Mental Health for Teenagers
Mental health problems are on the rise for teenagers in the United States. Although many changes have been made to improve access to care and promote wellness, much still needs to be done.
Untreated mental health disorders in teenagers and adolescents can have long-lasting consequences. The teen years are vital to who someone becomes. This is the time when people figure out who they are, what they want, and explore their identity. Dealing with mental health issues at this time can set someone back in areas like confidence, social skills, life skills, self-worth, and awareness.
Some risk factors that can lead to mental health conditions during youth include:
- Shyness or lack of social skills
- Low self-esteem
- Drug and alcohol abuse at home
- Poor home environment
- Stressful or traumatic events
- Poor school performance
- Familial mental health disorders
- Peer rejection
These factors may increase the odds that your teen will deal with mental health issues throughout their lives, but even without any specific contributing factors, teens can still experience depression and anxiety. Parents need to stay invested in their child’s lives so they can communicate any concerns and catch signs of mental health disorders early.
Why Parents Should Stay Involved
A teen’s parents are often the first to notice emotional, mental, or behavioral changes. These often signify a deeper problem. According to the New York Times, “From 2001 to 2019, the suicide rate for American youngsters from ages 10 to 19 jumped 40 percent, and emergency room visits for self-harm rose 88 percent.” These statistics should be a concern to parents.
Teenagers may look like adults, but they do not have the capacity to problem solve the way most adults do. They may not know how to verbalize their worries, fears, and emotions. They need their parents to be involved and guide them.
When parents stay involved in their teenagers’ lives and wellness, both parties gain a better understanding of mental health disorders, mental health care, and their specific situation. Promoting open communication with one’s teenager, whether they are struggling or not, encourages them to speak up if problems arise and advocate for themselves with their parents’ example.
How Parents Can Advocate for Their Teens
Whether one has struggled with mental health issues or not, advocating for teens’ overall wellness is vital for accessing treatment, resources, and healing. Parents may not personally know what they are going through, but they can learn and help.
Take Care of Yourself
Parents must model healthy behaviors and good habits. Teenagers need positive examples to work off of. If their parents show them how they take care of their emotional and mental well-being, it will encourage them to do the same and to come to their parents when they need help.
Create a Stable Environment
Building a safe and stable home for one’s child helps them grow into resilient and independent adults. If they know they have a safe space to seek their parents’ support without judgment, they will trust them with their problems.
Encourage Social Skills
Many parents encourage their child’s educational success, which is great. However, parents should also ensure their teen is also flourishing in their social lives. Building a sense of community with peers is vital to overall wellness. Motivate their creativity and drive to join clubs, groups, or sports. Friendships improve their social development, teach them to deal with peer pressure, set boundaries, and become confident individuals.
Parents should have ongoing talks with their teenager about not only their problems but one’s own. Be honest about what is going on in the household. Keeping secrets from teenagers to protect them tends to push them away and lead to strained relationships. Talk to teens about how they would handle problems that may come up, like drugs or alcohol. Discuss the importance of being open about mental health and seeking help when needed—or as a preventative tool.
Keep Up With Their Health
Ensure teens get regular check-ins. Health care professionals can help parents monitor their children’s health, give them advice on how to prevent problems, and diagnose and treat physical and mental health conditions. Parent coaching can also help parents learn more about their child’s developmental stage and how to work with them to find a solution.
Find a Licensed Therapist for Your Teenager
Finding a licensed therapist and getting one’s teenager in treatment when it becomes necessary is key to their growth and healing. Speak with the teen’s doctor, friends, or family — with the child’s privacy in mind — and ask for referrals.
Being an advocate for yourself can feel hard enough, but being there for your teenager is vital. They need your guidance more than you may realize. When a teenager is struggling, they may not run to you for help the way they once did. Your advocacy for their wellness starts with communicating with your child and going from there. You must be able to talk to your child about difficult subjects and let them know you are there to support them. If mental health issues arise, work together to find a treatment or counseling path that works for them. You may feel lost when your teenager is struggling, but you can help and set them on a path to healing. Havenwood Academy is here to help you and your child thrive. Call us at (435) 586-2500 to learn about our services and treatments.
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