Understanding Teens and Mental Health

A Guide For Parents: Understanding Teens and Mental Health

Adolescence isn’t an easy time for parents. The teen years are typically turbulent ones as the children experience many growth changes and transitions - physical, emotional, hormonal, sexual, social, and intellectual. The pressures and problems teens encounter can all seem overwhelming. For many teenagers, these and other pressures can lead to one or more of a variety of mental health disorders. All are matters of concern and some are life-threatening.

Common problems teenagers face today are:

• Self-Esteem and Body Image
• Stress
• Bullying
• Depression
• Cyber Addiction
• Drinking and Smoking
• Teen Pregnancy
• Underage Sex
• Defiant Behaviors
• Peer-Pressure and Competition

Key Tips for Parents

Keep communication constant, open, and honest. Teenagers need to know that they can talk to their parents about anything and parents have to be committed to openly broaching topics of concern. Teens are curious and often in their need for independence or to establish a sense of control, they experiment with underage consumption of alcohol or drugs and physical intimacy. Talking to teens will enable them to be informed and will remove the “taboo” from the topic. Parents can talk about their own experiences and fears as an adolescent. Let teens know they are not alone, nor are their anxieties unique.

Understand that mental health disorders are treatable and even preventable. Parents need to educate themselves with information about the most common mental health disorders among adolescents. Speak with the child’s pediatrician, local health department, religious leader, and the child’s school representatives about mental health disorders and their treatment options.

Be attentive to the teen’s behavior. Adolescence is a time of transition and change, but severe, dramatic, or abrupt changes in behavior can be strong indicators of serious mental health issues.