Teen years are the most demanding years in an individual’s life. It is during these years that the teen adopts habits that would frame his/her personality and define the type of an individual that the teen would grow up to be. Apart from being an experimental stage, these years are also vulnerable as they hold the highest risk of a teen developing an addiction or any form of mental illness.
Mental health issues can affect everyone alike irrespective of the race, gender or age, and, teenagers can be an easy target. The reasons for this can be many including stress at school/college/home, fight with loved ones, strained relationships, peer pressure, etc. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), approximately 46.3 percent children between 13 and 18 years of age have a lifetime prevalence of developing a mental health disorder.
Parents, generally, have the strongest bond with their children. This, in turn, makes it easier for them to recognize any symptoms of mental illness in their teens. But for this, it is important for them to be watchful, cautious and updated about the early signs that point towards the development of a mental illness. Timely detection and prompt action will ensure that the illness does not get exacerbated.
Although it is normal for a teenager to behave a bit differently as he/she begins to grow, there are certain signs that should be taken seriously and considered as a warning. Some preliminary signs that parents or guardians can look out for include:
Lesser time spent with family: It is common to see teens spend lesser time with their family, and more time with their friends; but parents needs to become watchful if their teens are spending maximum of their time closeted in their rooms with no interaction with anybody else.
Poor school performance: Teenagers affected by mental health disorders are likely to face setbacks in their school performances. They are unable to either attend school or perform well because of their poor mental health, increased levels of stress and anxiety, and the constant feeling of hopelessness that they endure.
Increased absenteeism: When a child is perpetually feeling sad or gloomy, he/she might stop attending all types of classes, be it school or hobbies, social gatherings, or other functions, which would require his/her participation at the social level. If parents notice this happening to their teens, they need to start talking to their teens.
Poor concentration: Poor mental health is reflected in an adolescent’s ability to remember things, pay attention, or concentrate on specific things. While being distracted for a small period of time for a reason that the parents can see is acceptable, being preoccupied and not showing interest in anything for long periods is not; and should be taken as a warning sign.
Physical symptoms: Mental illnesses affect a teenager’s physical health as well. Though stomachaches and headaches are considered to be normal, these reflect the development of mental illnesses when teenagers begin to experience them frequently and there seems to be no explanation for them.
Frequent aggression: Mental health disorders make a teenager feel irritated and frustrated, as they are unable to understand or explain what’s happening to them. This, in turn, leads to aggressive behavior in the form of verbal abuse, disobedience, etc.
Ignoring personal hygiene: Individuals generally become conscious of how they look, their body language, mannerisms, etc. during their teen years. However, if teens start displaying opposite behavior, that is, they begin to ignore their personal health, appearance and hygiene, it is time to get worried. Teens affected by depression or any other mental health disorder are basically not interested in doing anything and this extends to their personal hygiene. The feelings of sorrow and dejection, that they are feeling, manifest in the way they appear.
Substance abuse: Mental health illnesses can be devastating. In order to alleviate the symptoms of mental health disorders, teenagers are often seen indulging in substance abuse. According to the 2015 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 350,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 had a substance use disorder (SUD) and a major depressive episode (MDE), concurrently, in the past year.
Illicit activities: Mental illnesses affect the ability of the teenager to differentiate between right and wrong. This leads to an increased risk of indulging in dangerous or illegal activities, and risky behaviors. If parents notice their teens taking part in any such illicit activities, they need to confront them.
Helping teenagers with mental illnesses
According to the NIMH, 3 million adolescents in the age group of 12 and 17 years of age, had at least one MDE in the past year. Seeing such alarming statistics, it is important for parents to constantly guide their teens towards the right path and keep them away from the risk of developing any form of depression or any other mental illness. Though, it is good for parents to be aware of their teens, they should not panic when they observe symptoms of depression in teenagers. Remember, immediate professional medical attention can easily help their teenager get over his mental health problems.
If you know a teenage boy who is displaying signs of mental illness, White River Academy can help. Located in Utah, it is one of the leading therapeutic boarding schools that offers help for teen depression and other mental health problems. Call our 24/7 helpline number to know about our treatment for teen depression. You can even chat online with one of our representatives to understand more about teenagers and depression.