Written by Doctor G

For Teens: Talking with Parents About Mental Health Issues

When teens struggle with their emotions or self-regulation, they often hear “Why didn’t you tell me??!?” As if telling your parent or teacher or coach, “I need help” is an easy thing to do. As if getting them to hear what you’re feeling and not freak out, or tell you you’re wrong, is simple.

But it can be a little easier.

First of all, I just wanted to say how really brave it is to confront your problems head on and to talk to your parents or another adult you trust. When it comes to mental health struggles, please know that you are not alone. There are many other teens that are facing these same issues right now. It’s not your responsibility to fix these issues you are experiencing. The most important thing is to tell someone you trust.

Did you know that 20% of kids age 13-18 live with a mental health condition? That means if your homeroom class has 20 kids in it, there are four who are dealing with an issue themselves. I made this video to help if you aren’t sure how to start the conversation. After you watch it, ask your parents if you can sit down and have a discussion about how you have been feeling using some of the tips I gave.

Send them this post, because I have some information for them, too, on how they can help you get through this tough time. Just have them read the “For the Parents” section of this blog post.

For Parents:

Much as we want our kids to talk to us about anything, it can be the hardest part of parenting when they do. It may be difficult to hear that your child is struggling. But you can handle this. And you’re not alone either.

If you aren’t sure about how mental illness affects teens, here are some sobering statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (nami.org).

  • 50% of lifetime cases of mental illness begin by 14
  • Approximately 50% of students with a mental illness drop out of high school
  • 70% of youth in the state and local juvenile justice system have mental illness
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death in kids age 10-24, and 90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness

If you are reading this, you may have had a tough conversation with your teen about their mental health or they may have approached you about it. Here are some next-steps items that will help you continue helping your teen.

  1. Really listen and show empathy. Listening without telling them how they should feel is the most useful first step you can take. And you have total control over this one.
  2. Keep an open mind. Let them share their struggles and fears with you.
  3. Talk to your teen’s doctor about these issues and if they feel it’s necessary, make an appointment with a mental health professional.
  4. Consider the benefits and risks of engaging with your child’s school so they can give you feedback and be a partner in their care.
  5. Join a support group or connect with other families who have the same struggles.
  6. Check in with your child on a regular basis.

Do you have any tips to share? Share with us on Facebook or Twitter!

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