The National Alliance on Mental Health, or NAMI, has recently introduced a toolkit — known as Say It Out Loud — intended to persuade teens to talk about mental illness. As more and more of those with mental health issues continue to step forward, including celebrities, such efforts help to remove associated stigma with this particular illness. The toolkit is meant to be used in local communities nationwide to increase awareness of mental health disorders. This includes being able to determine symptoms appropriately amongst those who may benefit from treatment.
What is included
Say It Out Loud consists of a few different components. It includes a short film highlighting warning signs and symptoms of several disorders. There is also a discussion guide for groups and a narrated presentation for group leaders. Participants can also receive fact sheets and details about how to connect with NAMI locally within their particular region.
The red flags of mental illness among teens include self harm and risk-taking behavior. An adolescent may feel despondent for a period of weeks or longer, or may become fearful for no logical reason. There may be a pattern of substance abuse or changes in sleeping patterns. One’s ability to focus attention when needed can also be compromised.
According to NAMI, one in five teens suffers from a health disorder and less than half of these numbers receive the help they need. Many young people believe they will be singled out for experiencing the signs of a health disorder. This is why getting the word out to help remove misconceptions is so important.
The organization also states that three-fourths of all mental illness is diagnosed by the age of 24. The highest incidence for this age group is mood disorders, such as anxiety or depression. Second are behavioral disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. This is then followed by anxiety disorders.
Teens and Suicide
The organization also touches on the reality of teen and young adult suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death from people aged 15 to 24 years old. NAMI mentions the telltale signs of suicide including lack of interest in activities the person once enjoyed. The individual is also more prone to withdrawing from others or displaying reckless behavior. Adolescents that see such warning signs in themselves or others should not hesitate to step forward.
How Parents Can Help
Ideally, a teen should feel a parent is readily available if he is experiencing symptoms of a health disorder. Parents should listen intently with an open mind and not jump to conclusions about the adolescent’s experiences. Always take such concerns seriously, as a young person may well already fear that he will be judged for the condition. Now is the time to be accommodating and help him find the proper resources for assistance. Parents can also do their part by educating themselves about the symptoms of a suspected disorder so that they can respond appropriately in different circumstances.
An adolescent should not feel he is a failure or a lesser person for having to seek treatment. Yet since teenagers are often preoccupied with how others see them, such a response can be understandable. Mental health professionals can help by being especially sensitive and unassuming about treatment of the disorder. Treatment facilities that customize treatment and offer therapy on co-occurring conditions, or dual diagnosis, can be pivotal for lasting change.
Though treatment will vary depending on the specific disorder that is diagnosed during assessment, many forms of therapy may still overlap. Cognitive behavioral therapy — CBT is often used to help adolescents change destructive thoughts or actions into more positive and adaptive ones. Different medications may also be prescribed, such antidepressants for a mood disorder or anti anxiety medication for an anxiety disorder. By addressing the treatment of conditions at a young age, teens can be better prepared for managing their symptoms later in adulthood.
White River Academy is a Therapeutic Boarding School specializing in CBT and Dialectical Behavior Therapy, in addition to a quiver full of other treatment modalities. We cultivate a structured and activity-filled environment to give your teenaged boy the skills and competencies to handle their issues. For more information, or to enroll your son today, call our Admissions team at 866-520-0905.