Does Lack of Sleep Affect Mental Health?

tired teens

Do you know the impact that sleep deprivation can have on your teen? (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Every parent with teenage children worries that they aren’t getting a good night’s sleep most nights, but staying up late and not getting enough sleep are generally considered to just be one of those “things teenagers do.”  When you add to that the fact that research has shown that teenagers are biologically hardwired to stay up late, many parents simply give in and stop trying to get their teens to spent more time sleeping and less time texting, skyping, and gaming.

But new research may encourage parents to take a stronger stance when it comes to getting their teens to be more serious about sleep.  This research was authored by a professor from the University of Bologna in Italy and utilized data gathered during interviews with more than 12,000 teens from 11 different countries in Europe.  In the interviews, participants were asked about their sleep habits, how much sleep they got on average each night, and inquired about their emotional state.

The analysis of all this data indicates that there may be some connection between the amount of sleep a teenager gets and their mental health.  While no cause and effect relationship can be determined because of the study’s design and the need for additional information, the results seem to indicate that getting less sleep may increase the chances of a teenager experiencing suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems.

The research indicated that teenagers who admitted they had experienced suicidal thoughts were very likely to be getting around 36 minutes less sleep each night than those who did not have suicidal thoughts.  Additionally, teens that had been diagnosed with severe emotional problems slept about 30 minutes less than their peers on average each night.

These initial findings may help direct future research initiatives geared towards more clearly defining the relationship between sleep and emotional distress in teenagers.  It will be important to gain a clearer picture of whether or not sleeping less is a sign of emotional problems or if not getting enough sleep contributes to the development of those problems.

However, based on other recent findings in sleep science, the best approach for parents is to encourage their teenagers to make sleep a priority and to develop healthy sleep habits.  While it may not be clear yet if lack of sleep can contribute to depression, we already know that it can play a role in major health problems like obesity and diabetes.  Parents can support their teens by encouraging them to follow these sleep hygiene guidelines.

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Don’t do anything except sleep while in bed.
  • Leave electronics including laptops and cell phones in the other room when it is time to go to bed.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that helps signal your body that it is time to go to sleep.
  • Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep and devoid of excess light and noise.
  • Keep your room at a cool yet comfortable temperature to help encourage your body to fall asleep.

 

How to Help Your Teen Stay Active this Summer

summer teenager

Follow these tips if you’re looking to keep your teen active this summer (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Most teenagers start dreaming about the last day of school as soon as Spring Break is over.  Unfortunately, parents don’t usually look forward to summer vacation at all because to them it means lots of unsupervised time and constantly arguing with a “lazy” teenager about why they do need to get out of bed before noon.   In generations past, summer vacation meant long days spent outside climbing trees, riding bikes, and swimming in anything with more than an inch or two of water.  Summer used to be the most active time of the year.

But for today’s teens, summer is more likely to mean long days spent inside the house playing video games or watching videos on YouTube.  Without the physical education classes, dance classes, or organized sports teens have during the school year, summer for today’s teens has become the least active part of their year.  This is not good news for a generation of teens who are struggling with obesity, diabetes, and other health problems that are related to not getting enough physical activity.

So in addition to arguing about whether or not 11:45 AM can still be considered “morning,” parents need to be make sure they are staying on top of their teens about getting out of the house and being active.  Most experts agree that teenagers need at least 60 minutes of exercise every day.  But before you take all the laundry off the treadmill and start making rules, here are some ways you can help your teenager stay active this summer without making them feel like you are trying to ruin their summer vacation.

  1. Encourage Them to Become a Life Guard

If your teenager is old enough, encourage them to become certified as a life guard so that they can get lots of physical activity while also getting something else teenagers love….a paycheck!

  1. Encourage Them to Become a Babysitter

Becoming a certified babysitter, like being a lifeguard, gives your teens a chance to start earning their own money and as the parent of any toddler can attest to – they won’t spend much time sitting around.

  1. Encourage Them to Become a Camp Counselor

Again, mandatory activity that doesn’t feel like exercising that comes with a paycheck.

  1. Make Mandatory Family Time an Active Activity

Maybe you all take the dog for a walk after dinner or spend 30 minutes working out or lifting weights; it really doesn’t matter what you are doing together as long as it is active and you work on making it fun for everyone.

  1. Designate Internet Free Zones

And by zones we mean parts of the day.  If you don’t have a system where you can programmatically shut off access to the internet and/or cable during certain times of the day, simply unplug the router.  After a little time spent complaining and being bored, teens will find something to do so have some active suggestions ready so you can steer them in the right direction.

Above all, make sure you are modeling the behavior you want to see in your teens.  If you spend more time watching TV, playing video games, or sitting at your computer than you do being active, your kids will follow your lead.  If you want them to get more exercise, show they how by doing it yourself.

 

Related Articles:

Teens Aren’t Getting the Mental Health Care They Need

 

Mental Health Month

Make sure you know how to get your teen the help they need (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Research has shown that many of our teenagers simply aren’t getting the mental health services they need to treat and overcome mental health conditions that can impact the rest of their lives.  Only about 45% of teenagers with psychiatric disorders receive treatment which is a statistic we, as a community, have to change.   One of the goals of National Mental Health Month, which runs throughout the month of May, is to provide people with the tips and information they need to protect mental health as part of their overall health.

When it comes to the mental health of our teens, parents are generally the deciding factor when it comes to getting help for mental health issues.   They are the ones who reach out to seek treatment and who pursue or fail to pursue the available options for support.  One of the most common challenges parents face is finding the right mental health provider for their teenager, especially if there is no diagnosis or if the parents are reaching out for the first time.  To help parents overcome this challenge, here are some tips parents can use to find the perfect provider for their teen.

  1. Work with Your Teen

Finding the right provider can play a big part in the success of mental health treatment.  For this reason, you and your teen need to work together to identify potential providers that might be a good fit. Sit down and talk about what kind of provider they want to work with and use that as your basis to move forward.

  1. Make a List of Qualifications

While talking to your teen, brainstorm the kind of qualifications you need to look for in a provider.  These can include gender, age, specialty, experience, etc.

  1. Ask for Recommendations

You can ask friends and family for recommendations if you feel comfortable discussing the situation with others.  You can also talk to the guidance counselor at your child’s school or their pediatrician to get other recommendations.

  1. Make a List

Come up with a list of potential providers and then call your insurance company.  Verify that all the people on your list are covered by the plan.  Once you have confirmed coverage, take some time to look them up online and do some research.

  1. Pick One to Start With

You may have more than one provider on your list after completing your research.  That’s okay.  Just pick the one that seems like the best fit and schedule an initial session.  Keep the list of alternative providers as a backup in case the provider you picked isn’t available of proves to be less than an ideal fit for your teen.

Taking the time to pick providers that are well suited to your teenager is very important.  While many teens are open to the idea of mental health treatment, you may only have one good shot and if they end up with an ill-suited provider, it can be difficult to get them to try again with someone else.

 

Related Articles:

National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week

Anxiety Disorders

Here you can find a resourceful list on the topic of anxiety disorders (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Each year, more than 60 million Americans suffer from anxiety and depressive disorders including our teens and children. These devastating mental health conditions affect every area of a person’s life and when the person struggling with the condition is a teenager, it can affect everything from their social development to their prospects for the future. The goal of National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week, which runs from May 4-10, is to help those with the conditions and their family members to get the help and support they need to treat the conditions and mitigate the impact.

Unfortunately, our adolescents are not immune from these pervasive mental health disorders. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about 8% of teenagers suffer from an anxiety disorder and about 11% suffer from a depressive disorder but the majority of teens in both groups never receive treatment. With such devastating, potentially long term impacts, we need to work harder to ensure that our teens are getting the help and support they need to learn to manage these disorders.

Fear and sadness are normal human responses that have helped us throughout human history to avoid danger and deal with loss. But when these normal responses go awry, our ability to use the emotional energy created is compromised. Those emotions can become overwhelming and overpowering and may feel as though they are taking over our lives. Without treatment or tools to effectively manage that experience, many of those dealing with anxiety and depression embrace unhealthy coping mechanisms in order to deal with their day to day lives. When this happens, it only complicates the problem because now multiple disorders must be treated in order for the person to get back to a place of manageable mental health.   The complications caused by co-existing conditions only underline the importance of treating anxiety and depression as early as possible.

The most common anxiety and depressive disorders experienced by teenagers are:

Panic Disorder

Anxiety is normal in all of us, even our teenagers. However, for some people, anxiety can become overwhelming, all-encompassing, and debilitating. When anxiety shifts from normal day to day worries to something more, an anxiety disorder may be to blame. For parents of teenagers with anxiety disorders, it can be as important to understand what makes things worse as it is to understand what makes it better.

Learn more about Panic Attacks (https://www.doorwaysarizona.com/7-things-make-anxiety-attacks-worse-teens/)

Phobias

While fear and anxiety can be healthy responses, they can also expand beyond healthy to become unhealthy, hindering, and even harmful. When fear takes on a life of its own and expands to encompass things that are not actually a direct and immediate threat, that fear becomes a phobia.   Phobias are fueled by fearful emotions that are severe, extreme, and persistent and can trip the fight or flight response even when there is no direct and immediate threat of harm.   Anxiety can also expand beyond what is normal and helpful to become a phobia, an anxiety disorder, or and anxiety disorder tied to a phobia.

Learn more about Phobias

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is an anxiety disorder that can affect people of all ages, even teenagers. People with OCD experience excessive worry about specific things, called obsessions, which they cannot control and in an effort to manage their anxiety, they feel compelled to perform certain ritualistic behaviors. Teenagers with OCD may develop obsessions related to normal teenage worries like school or friends but their obsessions can be related to almost anything. Since it is normal for teenagers to experience anxiety, parents often wonder how to differentiate between normal anxiety and worry and OCD.

Learn more about OCD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which can affect anyone at any age, can be difficult to diagnose because there may be a lag between the start of symptoms and the triggering traumatic event. In fact, it is not uncommon for symptoms to start slowly and increase in frequency and/or severity over time. This is one reason that understanding the signs and symptoms of PTSD is crucial for anyone who has experienced trauma or who has a loved one that has been through a traumatic event. The key to managing and overcoming the disorder is timely diagnosis and treatment which underlines the importance of knowing what to look for and knowing when it is time to seek help.

Learn more about PTSD

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Everyone worries about things, even children and teenagers. Whether the worry is over the upcoming history test, getting a date to the prom, or making the soccer team, anxiety is a normal part of everyday life. However, in some people, normal everyday worries can become excessive and everyday things can cause severe anxiety. This type of anxiety is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and it affects about 3% of the U.S. population each year, including one in eight children.

Learn more about GAD.

Clinical Depression

Depression in teenagers doesn’t always look the way we, as parents, expect it to. Sometimes the symptoms of depression can look a lot like normal teenage angst which means it goes undiagnosed. But getting teens who are dealing with depression the help they need is critical because depression impacts all areas of their life and if left untreated it can result in serious long-term problems. Here are some of the important facts about teenage depression that parents need to know in order to recognize the signs in their own child and to know what steps to take to get them the help they need.

Learn more about Depression

All of these disorders can be treated by qualified mental health providers and teenagers with these conditions can go on to live happy, healthy lives.

Related Articles:

The ABCs of Children’s Mental Health

Mental Health Resources

Here are some great resources to help you understand the ABC’s of mental health (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

May is Children’s Mental Health Month which is a great time to talk about where parents can find more information about the mental health conditions their adolescents may be struggling with. While there is no substitute for the expertise and information provided by a qualified mental health practitioner, this version of the ABCs can help parents learn more about the mental health conditions commonly seen in teenagers so they have the information they need in order to know when it is time to seek help, what questions to ask, and how to ensure their child or teenager gets the mental health support and services they need.

ADHD

Bipolar Disorder

  • Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens: A Parent’s Guide from the National Institute of Mental Health
  • Children and Teens with Bipolar Disorder from WebMD.com
  • Bipolar Disorder in Children and Teens from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • Children and Adolescents with Bipolar Disorder from the National Alliance on Mental Illness

Bullying

Cutting and Self Harm

  • Understanding Teen Cutting and Self Injury from Parenting.org
  • Self Injury and Cutting from the Mayo Clinic
  • Self Injury in Adolescents from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • A Silent Cry for Help: Understanding Self Harm from Psychology Today

Depression

Eating Disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Children and Adolescents from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychology
  • OCD in Children and Teens from the International OCD Foundation
  • Child and Adolescent OCD from the National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • OCD in Teens from Beyond OCD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Suicide Prevention

  • Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide website
  • Preventing Youth Suicide – Tips for Parents and Educators from the National Association of School Psychologists
  • Teen Suicide is Preventable from the American Psychological Association
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Related Articles:

Emotional Overeating Awareness Month

obesity healthy eating

If you struggle with emotional overeating, these tips can help you get on the road towards better health (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

One of the many challenges we face as a society is overcoming the recent rise in obesity rates among both adolescents and adults. With more than a third of the population currently categorized by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as obese  and more than two thirds considered overweight, now is the time to seek solutions for what many experts believe has become an epidemic.

While there are many factors believed to contribute to the obesity epidemic, the bottom-line is that most of us are simply eating and drinking more calories than our bodies require and when we have more than we need, the extra calories are stored as fat. In order to address this problem, we need to identify and correct this rampant overconsumption of calories. This is one of the goals of Emotional Overeating Awareness Month.

Emotional overeating happens when a person uses food as a way to feel good. For those that struggle with it, emotional eating offers a refuge from strong negative emotions and a way to dull those emotions so that they don’t have to be dealt with. But, this is not a healthy coping strategy for several reasons.

  1. It leads to weight gain, obesity, and the myriad of health problems caused by those conditions.
  2. It can become a vicious self-perpetuating cycle where the person eats to dull the pain, gains weight, experiences more negative emotions because of the weight gain, and then eats more to dull that pain.
  3. It keeps people from dealing with the source of those emotions.

While none of the people you know who are overweight or obese got that way solely because of emotional overeating, it can be a contributing factor. One of the challenges emotional overeaters face in overcoming this habit is that this kind of overeating often happens on autopilot. People who are eating because of their mood or emotion may not even realize they are eating until they have consumed a considerable number of calories.

There are things that emotional overeaters can do to help curb this behavior. Here are some strategies for dealing with emotional overeating and the emotions that underlie it in healthier ways.

  • Meet with a Nutritionist – A nutritionist or registered dietitian can help someone who struggles with overeating to pinpoint the triggers, behaviors, events, and emotions that support their overeating habits. They can also help identify healthy calorie intake levels, recommend ways to adopt healthier eating habits, and work to help improve overall eating habits and attitudes about food.
  • Meet with a Mental Health Provider – If emotional eating is a significant problem, there are emotional issues that need to be addressed and new, healthier coping strategies to be developed. A mental health provider can provide assistance and support for both.
  • Pay Attention – So much of emotional overeating is habit that happens without conscious thought that simply paying attention to what is going on in the mind, body, environment, etc. can help decrease overeating episodes and provide information needed to help increase the effectiveness of the other two strategies.

 

Related Articles:

3 Tips for Teen Stress Relief

stress

Here are 3 tips to help your teen manage their stress (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

It is tough to be a teenager and the demands of today’s world don’t make it any easier.  The most common things that can cause stress in a teenager’s life, as outlined by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, include academic demands, family problems, high expectations, overly packed schedules, safety concerns, peer relationships, and family financial instability.  With so many sources of stress it is no wonder that teens, who may not have developed the skills they need to manage their stress on their own, can easily become overwhelmed.

Signs of Stress

The first step is being able to recognize that stress is building so that you can take steps to manage and alleviate it before it causes problems.  Here are some of the most common signs of stress in teenagers.

  • You are always running late, forgetting what day it is, and losing things like your backpack or your keys.
  • You are always tired, but have trouble sleeping.
  • You never eat at a table or even sitting down and you always rush through meal time.
  •  You are constantly getting sick and have headaches a lot.
  • You are often doing three things at once, but you rarely finish anything, including your sentences.
  • You find yourself eating all the time.
  • You feel nervous and jumpy and have a short temper.
  • Nothing seems like fun and you feel like you are constantly on the verge of bursting into tears.

Stress Relief Strategies

Much of the time, we begin to experience the signs of stress above when the stress in our lives keeps building up without any relief.  The key to managing it better is to notice it is happening and then take action to help immediately alleviate that build-up of stress in the short-term while also considering how to lessen your stress over the long term.  Here are some teen-proven strategies for doing both.

1.     Listen to Music

Music not only soothes the savage beast, it is also a sure-fire way to decrease your stress level quickly.  It may be listening to your favorite song, to a song that soothes and calms you, or to a loud, raucous track that provides you with the most relief.  When the pressure starts mounting and the signs above begin to show, pop in your ear buds and let the sounds soothe your stressed out soul.

2.     Chill Out

Sometimes we get stressed out because we are focused so intently on doing all the things we have to do like school, work, chores, etc. that we forget to stop and smell the roses.  Taking a day or even an afternoon to just chill out with your friends playing video games, watching movies, or shooting hoops can help restore some of that balance and fight off the effects of stress.

3.     Get Physical

One of the most effective ways of burning off stress is to do something physically active like exercising, playing a sport, or even just going for a walk.  Get moving in the short term to alleviate the symptoms and then make sure you are planning time in your schedule to be active everyday to help keep the stress from building back up again.

Related Articles:

4 Common Types of Counseling, Explained

In honor of National Counseling Month,here are the different types of counseling we offer at Doorways (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

In honor of National Counseling Month, here are just four different types of counseling we offer at Doorways (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

April is Counseling Awareness Month which provides us with an excellent opportunity to talk about the different types of therapy that are often grouped under the “counseling” category.

For anyone new to mental health services, it can feel like the providers you are working with are speaking a different language.

Because there are several different therapeutic techniques available, seeking out services for your teen can easily become overwhelming.

To help you feel more comfortable reaching out and getting your teenager the help he or she needs, here is a breakdown of the most common types of psychotherapy in use today.

Gaining a basic understanding of the types of services available can help you to make an informed decision.

To help, here is a basic overview for each of the four most common types of counseling or therapeutic techniques used with teens.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

When people talk about going to “therapy” this is generally what they mean.  CBT is one of the most common types of therapy provided to teens and is often used as a foundation for treatment that can be combined with other types of therapy.

The premise of CBT is that our early lives including our childhood, upbringing, and the environment in which we were raised dictate who we become.

This means that the dysfunctional patterns and coping strategies we learned in our childhood and adolescence follow-us into adulthood.

CBT works to identify and replace the dysfunctional areas with healthy alternatives primarily through talk therapy.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy uses key behavioral modifications to effect change in thought patterns and emotional responses.

It is much more structured than CBT and focuses on changing behaviors in order to overcome challenges.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT uses the same techniques for learning to regulate and manage emotion as CBT but pairs them with practices like mindfulness and acceptance.

Although this type of therapy was originally developed as a way to treat people with borderline personality disorder (BPD), it is also proving to be effective at helping those who participate in self-harm like cutting and those with mood spectrum disorders.

Humanistic Therapy

Humanistic therapy takes a completely different approach to helping those with mental health concerns that the behavior-based therapies listed above.

Here, any dysfunction resulting from childhood experiences, traumatic events, or learned behaviors is irrelevant.  Instead, this method of treatment centers on self-actualization, fostering the idea that people are responsible for their own choices and that what matters is taking responsibility for the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are being experienced.

It is important to remember that these are only the most common therapeutic approaches used in treating mental health concerns that are often combined with these foundational techniques to better meet the needs of the individual client.

Most mental health providers will have a variety of tools in their toolbox which enables them to tailor their approach to treatment to the strategies, techniques, and tactics that are the most suitable for the situation.

 Related Articles:

12 Ways to Spend Earth Day with Your Teens

Earth Day

Use one of these ideas if you’re looking for ways to spend Earth Day with your teen (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

When you think about spending holidays together as a family, it is unlikely that Earth Day is one of the holidays that come to mind.  But since this is the perfect time of the year to get everyone out of the house and doing something service oriented together, it might be time to reconsider whether or not Earth Day belongs on your list of “family” holidays.

Earth Day, which will be held on April 22 this year, has helped raise awareness about environmental concerns for more than 40 years.  Take a little time this year to reconnect with the world around you and the members of your family.

Here are 12 different ways you can do something together this Earth Day to make a difference in the world around you while also strengthening the bonds between you.

1.     Compost

If you aren’t already composting, take some time on Earth Day to create a place to compost kitchen scraps and yard waste.

2.     Plant Something

It could be a tree, some flowers, a bush, a cactus….it doesn’t really matter what you choose, just get down in the dirt and make something grow.

3.     Go to the Park

Have a picnic dinner in the park or simply take the kids and the pets there to play.

4.     Take a Walk

Go for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood as a family after dinner – just make sure to implement a “no phone zone” during this family time.

5.     Start a Garden

It doesn’t have to be big it just has to be green.  Plant some citrus trees in your yard or a kitchen herb garden in a window sill.

6.     Take a Hike

Celebrate the natural beauty that is all around us with a special Earth Day hiking adventure.

7.     Host a Swap

One of the best ways to cut down on what winds up a landfill is to repurpose items we no longer need or want.  Invite friends and family over and ask them to bring some swap items too.

8.     Set up a Rain Catcher System

While that might seem strange here in the desert, you can still catch rain when the monsoons come and catching that rain enables you to repurpose it for watering house plants, citrus trees, and gardens.

9.     Swap Your Bulbs

Go through your house and swap out any remaining fluorescent light bulbs for the more energy efficient CFL bulbs.

10.  Volunteer

What better way to spend Earth Day than by volunteering your time, as a family, to help with some community or church event.

11.  Visit a Zoo or an Aquarium

While Earth Day is traditionally about conservation and environmental activism, it is also a great time to have an immersive experience, so go seek out some nature.

12.  Have an Eco Challenge

Have each family member come up with a way that the family can be more eco-friendly and then spend the evening talking about which changes you want to implement and how you are going to do some small things to make the world a better place.

 

Related Articles:

Only Half of Teens with Mental Health Issues Get Treatment

Teen Counseling

Help ensure your teen gets the help they may need (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

A recent study published in the journal Psychiatric Services indicates that more than half of all teenagers dealing with mental health disorders go untreated. Additionally, even when these kinds of disorders receive some treatment, the person doing the treating may not be a mental health provider.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, Harvard Medical School, and the National Institute of Mental Health. Using the results from the National Co-morbidity Survey Adolescent Supplement, the team looked at data from more than 10,000 U.S. teenagers. Their findings underline the importance of getting teenagers the help and support they need to overcome the challenges that often accompany mental health issues.

The study showed that of those teens with had a psychiatric disorder, only 25-45% had received any kind of treatment for that disorder in the previous 12 months. The findings, however, are not consistent across the board. Teens with specific mental health problems including ADHD, Conduct Disorder, and Oppositional Defiance Disorder, were more likely to receive treatment with at least 70% of the participants with those conditions receiving treatment in the previous year.

On the flip side, teens with phobias and anxiety disorders were the least likely to have received treatment in the past 12 months with only about 40% for each condition.

Only 23% of the teens who are getting some help with their mental health issues are receiving that help from traditional mental health providers like therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Many teens are being treated by alternative providers like the guidance counselor at their school or their pediatrician. In some cases, the person providing the majority of the teen’s mental health treatment and support is their parole officer.

While there are many reasons that teens are not getting the help they need in terms of their mental health, one thing that parents can do to combat this problem is to know how to tell when their teen is struggling. In order for teens to get the mental health treatment, support, and services they need to overcome these problems or to learn to manage these disorders, they need their parents to be behind them, seeking out the services they need, and fighting for the care that will be most beneficial to them. Parents can’t do what needs to be done to get their teen the necessary treatment if they aren’t aware that there is a problem.

To help change this dynamic and get more teens the treatment they need to thrive, here are some of the signs parents can look for that may indicate their teen is dealing with a mental health disorder.

  • Mood Swings – While teenagers are generally moody, these kinds of mood swings would be uncharacteristic for your child.
  • Changes in Behavior – Major changes in short timeframes should also be suspect. These kinds of changes can include personality changes, sleeping or eating habit changes, or big changes in personal style or their circle of friends.
  • Dropping Grades
  • Lower energy
  • Frequent non-specific illness like stomachaches, headaches, etc.
  • Self-medicating with drugs or alcohol
  • Decreases in personal hygiene

If your teen is displaying these signs, find a qualified mental health provider for them. This person can assess their condition, identify and diagnose any problems, and provide a plan for treatment and management.