With all the physical and emotional changes that take place during adolescence, there can be a resulting shift in mood and behaviour. So, would you really know if your child was just being a ‘regular teen’ or if they were suffering mental health difficulties?
There is no doubt that the rate of mental health issues among teenagers is on the rise. One in four young people experience mental ill-health each year. It’s important that parents can spot the signs and symptoms and know what to do if something seems not quite right.
Peter Wright is a child and family practitioner for ReachOut. He works with parents of teenagers, helping them to repair their relationships with their kids and build positive family environments. Together with Mimi, a 23-year old ReachOut Youth Ambassador, he shares insights and tips in the interview at the end of this article for ReachOut Live.
What is mental health?
Peter says, that your mental health refers to how healthy you are emotionally and psychologically. Mental ill-health is when things are going very poorly, and are becoming overwhelming and extremely uncomfortable emotionally or psychologically. For example, you have severe depression or anxiety.
How do we spot mental ill-health in our teenagers?
The following are potential ‘red flags’ that parents and teachers should keep an eye out for:
1. Your child is really down on themselves
2. They pull away from parents AND friends. Recognise that it is normal for teens to pull away from their parents to a degree and focus more on peers. The real concern is when they pull away from both.
3. There are changes in sleep patterns and appetite.
4. They pull away from activities they previously were enthusiastic about or really loved.
5. Trouble concentrating on schoolwork and homework when that wasn’t previously the case.
6. They engage in risky behaviour which is out of character.
7. More emotional than usual and the waves of emotion seem to be bigger than usual.
It is important that we constantly maintain and build connection with our kids. If there is connection, they are more likely to share with us when they are struggling. We also need to genuinely put the invitation out there for them to speak to us about how they are. We should be doing that every few days if there are initial concerns.
Who should you contact for help?
· Access helplines like Kids Helpline or Lifeline
· Visit your GP
· See a psychologist
· Access website resources, particularly ReachOut
After outlining these important points, Peter and Mimi go on to answer questions from their Facebook community. You can watch the full interview here: