Parents of teens know that sudden mood swings, reckless behavior, and personality changes are common. Few adults can deny that the teenage years are some of the most tumultuous and confusing, with raging hormones, increased responsibility, and relationship drama causing young people to rebel in sometimes dramatic and unexpected ways.
Sometimes, changes occur in response to environmental circumstances, such as bullying or a recent disruption in the family, including parental divorce. Every teen is likely to experience some level of hardship during these years, and remaining aware of the challenges your teen is experiencing will inevitably help them navigate this difficult stage with life with more ease.
Not every teen who faces struggles will develop a chronic mental health condition. However, some are particularly vulnerable, particularly to depression (known as the “common cold” of mental illness) and to anxiety, which often occur together and tend to appear during the teen and young adult years.
Be aware of the warning signs
Parents and educators are advised to keep a close eye on their teen’s behavior, and to be particularly wary of a few specific warning signs. Not every teen who displays these symptoms is necessarily depressed, but psychologists acknowledge that a statistically high number of teens are facing mental health crises in today’s world. This is likely because of constellation of contributing factors.
Fatigue, insomnia, listlessness, social withdrawal, a drop in academic performance, and sudden personality changes can all signal depression. Only a licensed professional can accurately diagnose and treat depression, especially in teens and young people, when the brain is undeveloped and still undergoing gradual changes.
Stay calm and be encouraging
If your teen has been diagnosed with major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder, it’s normal to feel a mixture of emotions, from relief to resentment. But keep in mind that someone struggling with depression is unlikely to have the presence of mind to understand why you’re afraid and why your emotions may be running high. They already likely feel a great deal of shame because of the stigma surrounding mental illness and will likely shoulder more blame if they suspect they’re a burden to the family.
Teens look to trusted adults for guidance, and when they’re suffering from depression, they’re even more vulnerable to internalizing negative beliefs about themselves, self-injurious behavior, and suicide. They need a safe place within which to heal, not a war zone to return home to after school.
One of the biggest challenges to ensuring that your teen gets on the path to recovery is compliance. Some teens believe that their medication may stunt their creativity and fear the feeling of numbness that occasionally occurs with antidepressants. As a result, they may discard their pills in secret, take them inconsistently, or refuse to speak in therapy.
Parents who are actively involved in their adolescent child’s recovery are more likely to see results in a shorter span of time. If your teen is not complying with treatment, you may wish to help create a routine for them to help them feel less overwhelmed. Be patient and calm, yet firm.
Seek inpatient treatment if necessary
Sometimes, in severe cases, teens require more specialized care. Psychiatric residential programs provide one-on-one care. Medication and talk therapy are two common forms of treatment, typically used together.
However, teens with treatment-resistant depression may be referred to an inpatient program that combines psychiatric treatment with schooling that enables teens to complete their high school diploma, apply to college, and plan for their future.
If you believe that your teen is at serious risk of self-harm, it may be time to start seeking out rehabilitation programs. A simple search for “residential centers for youth near me” will turn up a variety of sources, but make sure you do your research, visit the facility, and trust your intuition.
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