Parents are all too aware of the stress and turmoil that teenage years can bring. After all, our teenage years are often plagued with the pressures of puberty, peer pressure, bullying, body image concerns, school, friendships, relationships, and low self-esteem as they struggle to figure out who they are and where they fit in. Many teenagers face mental health issues, often at a young age!

With all these developmental challenges in mind, it’s no wonder that the National Institute of Mental Health reports that approximately 49.5% of all teens between the ages of 13 and 18 have a mental disorder including mood, behavior, and anxiety disorders. This statistic is concerning and seems to be rising every year with the addition of social media….but your teen is not alone in their struggles and you’re not alone either. Whether you are a parent, guardian, coach, or teacher, you have the power to help your teen if they are experiencing mental health issues.

And remember, many teenagers greatly benefit from counseling with a professional!

a teenage girl laying in bed dealing with mental health concerns | The Peaceful Mind Counseling Center

Here is what we’ll cover in this article:

  1. Reasons for poor mental health in teen and adolescence
  2. Warning signs of depression and suicide to look out for
  3. How parents can support teens’ mental health
  4. Coping Skills teens can learn to reduce stress and anxiety

It’s normal for teenagers to go through many ups and downs during their development at growth…but some teens are more at risk for depression and suicide than others. Knowing some factors will help you determine if your teen is at risk.

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Factors that influence poor mental health in teens

While there can be many factors that influence poor mental health in adolescents, here are some common factors:

  • Female teens develop depression twice as often as males.
  • Abused and neglected teens are especially at risk.
  • Adolescents who suffer from chronic illnesses or other physical conditions are at risk.
  • Teens with a family history of depression or mental illness: between 20 to 50 percent of teens suffering from depression have a family member with depression or some other mental disorder.
  • Teens with untreated mental or substance-abuse problems: approximately two-thirds of teens with major depression also battle other mood disorders like dysthymia, anxiety, antisocial behaviors, or substance abuse.
  • Young people who experienced trauma or disruptions at home, including divorce and the deaths of parents.

an adolescent boy feeling the effects of depression | The Peaceful Mind Counseling Center

How to know if your teenager is depressed, anxious or has other mental health challenges

Depression and anxiety can be manifested in many ways, but here are some commons signs for teenagers:

  • Sadness or hopelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sluggishness (less active)
  • Substance abuse
  • Spending more time alone (this includes time alone from you as parents and time away from their regular friends)
  • Decrease in desire to do things they used to like to do (sports, activities, hobbies)
  • Physical ailments (headaches, appetite problems, sleeping problems)
  • Problems in school (falling grades, getting into trouble, not paying attention in class)
  • Talking about death or suicide (never to be taken lightly)
  • Not caring about appearance
  • Running away from home

Related Reading: How to Motivate a Depressed Teenager: 8 Proven Strategies

How to Support & Improve Your Teenager’s Mental Health

mother providing support to her teenager with mental health issues | The Peaceful Mind Counseling Center

If your teen is showing signs of poor mental health including depression and anxiety, there are steps you can take to support them. Listening to our youth’s concerns regarding their mental health and providing them with the right support can show them that we care about them and their needs. This can be done with the following steps:

Offer warm encouragement 

It’s no secret that teenagers can be stubborn, rebellious, and unwilling to listen to their parent’s advice. Attempts to assist them may be viewed as controlling by adolescent minds, leading to push-back. This is why, rather than telling them they need to do something, you and your teens should sit down and plan together how they might try something new and what they can do to feel better. This type of problem-solving can help your teen succeed in caring for their mental health long after they have left home. 

Encourage other connections 

The connections we have with our friends, family, neighbors, peers, and other community members are necessary for positive mental health outcomes. Maintaining connections and forming relationships with others is especially important for our teens. Encourage them to socialize and build connections with others, whether this be another peer or a trusted adult (a counselor, teacher, coach, or family member, etc.) that they can turn to for support and guidance. 

Respect their autonomy 

Sometimes our teens aren’t in the right headspace to talk and that’s OK. Giving the space to process what they’re feeling and not pressuring them to talk about it will increase the chances of them coming to you when they’re ready.

Take the stigma out of mental health 

Being able to admit when you’re struggling and need help can be difficult for anyone regardless of age. It’s important to normalize conversations around mental health and emotions in your home. As an adult, you can be honest about times when you’ve struggled with your own mental health and encourage your teen to do the same. A simple conversation can help your child feel safer and more comfortable with discussing sensitive topics such as this. 

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Coping Skills for Stress and Anxiety in Teenagers

teenage girl using music to help cope with anxiety | The Peaceful Mind Counseling Center

Strategies Teens Can Learn to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Your teen can learn different ways to manage their stress and anxiety. Work with your teen (and, if possible, a mental health professional) to come up with strategies to help your child cope with stressful life situations. Some common coping skills for teenagers may include:

  • Breathing exercisesTry box breathing. Imagining breathing around a box. Inhaling as you imagine going up one side of the box, pausing, and then exhaling as you picture going down the other side of the box. In moments of stress and anxiety, box breathing is an easy way to slow down and help calm your body and mind. Watch a video.
  • Grounding exercises – A grounding exercise can be anything from focusing on your five senses to putting your hands in water. These simple activities help refocus your mind and body. Find the right technique for your teen here. 
  • Soothing activities – When your child was a toddler, you most likely had a few activities on hand for when they became overwhelmed or tired. Teens also require the same soothing activities. Help your teen brainstorm some ideas of activities they can do that will help them self-soothe when they are feeling anxious or down. Some examples include listening to relaxing music, going for a walk outside, or using a weighted blanket when sleeping. More ideas for self-soothing activities can be found here.

Final Thoughts on Helping a Teenager with Mental Health Issues

With the rising statistics of mental illness among teens in our country, supporting our teens is more important than ever. Fortunately for parents, there are clear steps that can be taken to guide teens in this journey to wellness.

The mental health support that our children and teens receive will shape how they approach future mental health concerns and their overall well-being as they grow into adulthood.

If you are interested in learning more information on how to support your child or teen’s mental health, please contact The Peaceful Mind Counseling Center to schedule a consultation with one of our licensed counselors here.

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