Now that you know what to look for and understand the severity of paying attention to your teen's mental health what should you do?
What To Do If You Are Worried About Your Teen’s Mental Health
Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to reach out to a licensed mental health professional early. All too often, I see seeking services being the last resort in addressing mental health concerns. Addressing concerns earlier rather than later leads to long term success. Make sure the licensed practitioner is a good fit for your teen, you may love them but your teen may not feel comfortable speaking with them (in fact if you love them, your teen will almost DEFINITELY not feel comfortable speaking with them). This happens conversely as well, you may not “like” the therapist, but your teen may feel comfortable with them, and through the relationship may be making real changes. Working with children and adolescents is a specialized area, so make sure the therapist has experience in this area (believe it or not, most of my referrals for therapy services are word of mouth directly from my teens themselves).
End The Stigma: Don’t be afraid to talk about these things with your child. There is no shame in dealing with a mental health difficulty and talking about it just like we do a broken bone or having a cold. Talking openly about mental health in our homes opens the door for our children to feel safe to come to us when they are suffering. Keeping the lines of communication open is key to providing the proper support.
Listen to Them: Believe what your teen says. Do NOT brush things off as them just being normal teenagers. If they are telling you they no longer want to do something, listen to why they are avoiding that activity. I will often have kids in my office whose parents’ complaints are that the kiddo no longer completes their homework and won’t do chores. When I speak with the child, they reveal that they have been feeling depressed for months and no longer care about anything because no one listens to them. LISTEN TO THEM. Where To Get Help There are several listing sites like therapyden.com, goodtherapy.com, psychologytoday.com, therapyforblackgirls.com, and many more that list licensed professionals in your area. Your child's pediatrician or insurance company can also provide a list of licensed professionals.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (www.nami.org) provides researched based information on mental health concerns. Maricopa County Crisis Line: (602) 222-9444 Crisis Text Line 24/7: Text HOME to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK
Mental health difficulties and getting help for them are not shameful, for those suffering or for those raising them. Throughout the course of the lifespan, we all have trouble at certain times with certain things. With the proper care, your teen can get the help they need, find new ways to understand themselves, and continue the “work” of adolescence as they learn, grow, and change to be the best version of themselves!