The mental health issues in teenagers and young adults have significantly worsened in recent years. There are many reasons for the decline in the mental well-being of youth in the United States, but one thing is clear — adolescent mental health services have never been more necessary than they are today.
You may be thinking, “I was a teenager once, and I got through it.” This may be true, but the pressure and stress that today’s youth deals with have drastically increased in the last decade.
Teens face the pressure to perform well academically and be competitive athletes for acceptance into the best four-year university, to be popular and well-liked at school and on social media, and to meet expectations at home to be helpful and supportive of their siblings and families.
Teenagers have a lot on their plates, and that pressure can be too much for many to deal with in healthy, productive ways. Unfortunately, many teens turn to drugs or alcohol and develop substance disorders, begin self-harming, engage in risky activities, or develop depression, anxiety, or eating disorders because they don’t know how to relieve the stress they experience.
Fortunately, there are many pediatric mental health services and mental health residential treatment centers that parents can access in order to seek treatment and recovery for their children. These include both inpatient treatment facilities as well as outpatient mental health services. Both have their own sets of rules and policies that are designed to support youth through treatment and recovery, and if your child is dealing with adolescent mental health problems, youth behavioral health services and adolescent mental health specialists can help.
The Increase in Demand for Teenage Mental Health Services
The increase in demand for youth mental health care and support is an amalgamation of a few different factors and misfortunes that have occurred in the mental health community.
1. Decreased stigma of treating mental health
While mental health care treatment centers for youth have been around for decades, it’s really only been a decade or so since these types of centers have been widely embraced by society as positive places for recovery.
In the 1980s and 90s, harsh truths came out about the mistreatment of children in these residential treatment centers, which fueled more fear of abuse, and the stigma surrounding adolescent mental health care increased significantly. Hollywood and the media exacerbated the paranoia and fears that parents have about sending their children to mental health clinics for fear of the use of straight jackets and padded walls.
Since the 2000s, new treatment options and federal safety regulations have been put in place to keep children and teens safe and able to receive mental health care in residential treatment centers.
As time has passed, the negative connotations of youth mental health services have declined. More families are open to the possibility of mental health services utilization and sending their children away to receive care for emotional or behavioral problems they may be experiencing. In time, the acceptance of mental health care has improved and the mental health care itself has improved.
As residential treatment centers become more widely accepted, the demand for care increases. Teens are facing heavy issues in today’s digital world, and oftentimes, school counseling services are not equipped to handle the needs of their students.
2. Social media
We may not yet fully understand the damage that social media has on the teenage population. At this point, research suggests that youth mental health is extremely impacted by social media, so much so that teenagers using social media are three times more likely to develop depressive and anxiety symptoms than those who don’t have accounts on these types of platforms.
Additionally, suicide rates for young women aged 15 to 24 have increased by over 80% in the past 20 years, closely mirroring the acceptance of social media platforms on our smartphones.
Social media encourages overconsumption in every sense of the word, and many teens get sucked into spending far too much time on these apps. Social platforms like Instagram can be particularly damaging and dangerous for teenage girls, who reportedly experience body insecurities and body image issues partially due to what they see on Instagram.
Social media is certainly a major contributor to why teens are internalizing mental health problems. The answer isn’t to simply keep them off social media, because accessing these platforms is already too easy. Instead, it’s important we discuss the idea of “Instagram vs. reality” to ensure our youth understands what they see online is rarely, if ever, the whole picture or the whole truth.
3. The COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 had an impact on every part of our daily lives, and for teens, their worlds were turned upside down. Suddenly, they were attending school through a computer screen, their sports and activities were canceled, and their social schedules were essentially erased.
In 2021, more than 37% of high school students said they experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, and 44% reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Those feelings don’t just disappear as the world opens back up; these feelings can have a dangerous lasting impression on young, developing minds.
Reports also show that high schoolers’ mental health declined even before the pandemic. It is apparent that the stay-home orders exacerbated already-worsening child mental health problems; perhaps COVID-19 and the global pandemic brought them to light faster.
What to Expect in a Treatment Center for Your Teen
The type of mental health clinic that is recommended for your child’s mental health needs can vary depending on what your child is struggling with and the best path forward, as determined by a mental health professional. The common types of inpatient and outpatient services for teens include:
Partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
Inpatient mental health care can be highly effective for adolescents who have had mental health problems detected and need immediate care for stabilization. In this setting, teens participate in group work by connecting with their peers who have similar mental health care needs as they do.
Many PHP programs include working to learn emotional regulation, coping skills, goal setting, art, music, and more. This level of care is typically around 2 and 3 weeks long, with private mental health clinicians nearby to provide teens the care and support they need.
Intensive outpatient programs (IOP)
Outpatient mental health care may include similar group settings as PHP, with teens receiving treatment less often but just as focused as PHP. Teens will still meet with a mental health care professional and a case worker in this phase, and parents receive weekly updates on their progress.
Those who complete PHP or IOP are invited to continue outpatient mental health visits once a week on a voluntary basis. This can include group therapy as well as meetings with mental health care professionals on an as-needed basis.
Benefits of a Residential Treatment Center for Teens
The benefits of inpatient mental health settings for children and teens are primarily the amount of care received during their stay.
In the beginning, when a teen is enrolled in an inpatient program, they will attend daily therapy sessions and group work that teaches them about mental health and the emotional and behavioral problems they are facing.
Most inpatient programs run for several weeks and require a minimum of 5 hours of various therapy modalities per day. This level of care is beneficial because it allows teens to focus on their mental health and not worry about school, sports, family life, and other priorities.
Additionally, inpatient mental health services encourage teens to form connections with the other patients receiving treatment. Forming connections in therapy encourages vulnerability and openness within child and adolescent treatment and recovery.
In residential treatment centers, teenagers are able to practice and apply the skills they are acquiring through therapy before they return home and shift into outpatient mental health settings. Honing those skills while in treatment helps build self-confidence and allows teens to be in charge of their recovery before they graduate to a less hands-on program.
Get Your Teen the Treatment They Deserve at Clear Recovery’s Teen Outpatient Program
Clear Recovery Center offers a teen mental health program designed to treat the unique struggles that this generation is facing in today’s world. Teenagers are experiencing a new wave of mental health challenges. If you have a child or adolescent at home that seems to be struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Our teen mental health treatment program offers a safe environment where teens and young adults can explore the origins of dysfunctional coping mechanisms such as self-harm, disordered eating, suicidal ideations, and/or substance abuse and learn healthier and more adaptive coping mechanisms. Learn more about our teen program here.