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4 Facts Parents Should Know About Teen Mental Health

parents supporting teen mental health

The stressors and hardships that young adults face today are unique — facing the digital world, social media, and a global pandemic, all while struggling with identity and purpose can be a lot for any person to handle, let alone an adolescent.

The conversation around teenage mental health issues should be ongoing in every home with children and teenagers living in it.

With so many young people dealing with common mental illnesses — the World Health Organization reports that 13% of the population who suffer from mental health disorders are in the 10-19 age range — it is crucial for parents and caretakers to be involved in their teens’ lives, be aware of their mental and emotional state, know the warning signs of mental health problems, and promote metal wellness in the household.

Creating supportive environments for young people, particularly middle school and high school students, is an effective first step for families to navigate mental health conditions. Here are four important facts that parents should know about adolescent mental health.

1. What to Know About Mental Illness in Teens

It’s important to understand that mental health problems can materialize in different ways for children and teenagers. Knowing the common types of mental health disorders is helpful for parents and caretakers so they can get to the root of the problem with their child and support them in getting the help they need.

There are three common types of mental illness in teens.

  • Anxiety disorders — excessive worry about matters in their daily life
  • Depression disorders — feelings of sadness, hopelessness
  • Social anxiety and fears — avoiding social settings, feeling insecure and uncomfortable

Generalized anxiety disorder can display itself in ways such as fatigue, sleep trouble, feeling restless or wound up, and even muscle tension. Anxiety disorders in teens often appear as nervousness or extreme stress, even when there may not be a real threat or problem. In social settings, teens with anxiety disorders may appear overly emotional or express worry about the lack of control they feel.

Signs of depressive disorders include persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness, along with feeling guilty or worthless. Teens struggling with depression may display signs of memory loss and have trouble with decision-making and thoughts of suicidal thoughts or death.

Social anxiety disorders often show a sudden change in comfortability in social settings. Teens may fear being judged or ridiculed by their friends and peers, struggle to keep friends, or express anxiety or dread about upcoming social events (school dances, birthday parties, etc.).

If you notice your teen beginning to show signs of any of these mental health issues, keep an eye on their behavior during that time and in the coming weeks. Mental disorders can take at least two weeks or months to diagnose, so knowing the time frame that they’ve been struggling is crucial.

2. Signs of Teenage Mental Health Problems

Addressing a mental health issue in a teenager can often be done by family members or those who spend time with the child on a regular basis. These people are more likely to pick up on changes in attitude, behavior, diet, and other warning signs.

Here are a few of the many signs a teen may be struggling with mental health issues.

  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Irritability, short responses, or changes in interactions with family
  • Lack of interest in hygiene or appearance
  • A decline in grades or interest in school
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Social anxieties
  • Panic attacks, depressed mood
  • Weight loss, loss of appetite, development of eating disorders
  • Loss of concentration and energy

3. Long-Term Effects of Untreated Mental Health Disorders

Because of the mental, physical, and emotional development that occurs during the formative years of a young person’s life, mental health disorders in teenagers are often overlooked as just part of growing up.

Most parents and caretakers fear the effects that mental health disorders may have on their children in the long term. The good news is mental health issues are treatable.

The first step is acknowledging your teen is struggling and talking to them about how they are feeling or what signs you have picked up on. The second step is receiving an accurate diagnosis, which can be done by a family physician or a psychiatrist.

Teens and young adults who have a mental health disorder and don’t receive proper medical treatment are at a much greater risk for other issues as they grow into young adulthood. Some of these include:

  • Substance use disorders
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Eating disorders
  • Suicide attempts
  • Homelessness
  • Poor quality of life

Additionally, untreated anxiety can lead to panic attacks, while untreated trauma can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. Neglecting mental health, in turn, leads to neglected physical health. Chronic pain, chronic stress, and other health issues can be directly linked to mental health illnesses.

4. Managing Teen Mental Health Disorders

Adolescence is a significant time in a person’s life to develop social, physical, and emotional habits for their entire life. These habits contribute to a person’s well-being and how they function as adults. Mental health disorders can be debilitating for teens and their families who are unprepared or don’t know the steps to take to manage them.

Here are a few strategies you can use to manage teenage mental health.

Know the signs

As we mentioned above, noticing even one warning sign can be all it takes to get your child the help they need. By educating yourself on signs and behaviors, like restrained eating signaling eating disorders or a change in wardrobe to cover up signs of self-harm, you will know what to look for and what the red flags are.

Even the most common mental health illnesses can be challenging for some parents to accept. Many parents think, “That wouldn’t happen to MY child,” but unfortunately, it does. It’s up to the people who spend the most time with the child, like family members, teachers, coaches, and friends to pick up on these adolescent mental health issues.

Be open and encourage your child to share how they’re feeling

Facing mental illness can be overwhelming and terrifying, and your child should know that they will never go through anything alone. If you have any experiences with mental illness, whether in your family or other people in your life, share those stories with your child(ren) and encourage them to ask questions.

There is a stigma attached to suffering from mental illness or a mental disorder, which can often paint victims in a false light. Having mental health as a topic of regular discussion in your home can destigmatize these mental disorders and normalize seeking mental health treatment.

Utilize mental health services

Your teen may be suffering from a diagnosable mental health disorder that can be treated with the help of a medical professional. Knowing the warning signs and having open conversations are useful ways to approach mental health, but therapy and prescription medications make all the difference for many teens.

Whether you seek support from the mental health professionals in your child’s school or through a referral from your family physician, highly qualified people and programs can help your teen manage their mental health.

If you notice your teens exhibiting some of the signs listed above, an outpatient treatment program is a great place to start. There, they a safe environment in which teens can explore the origins of dysfunctional coping mechanisms for their mental health with the support and guidance of a multi-disciplinary care team.

Several psychiatric medications are safe to prescribe for young people and may be an option for your child, depending on their symptoms and what they’ve been experiencing. Medication can help eliminate or reduce symptoms and improve your child’s mental health condition.

Teen Mental Health Services with Clear Recovery Center

At Clear, our evidence-based and individualized treatment options are designed to treat teenagers struggling with anxiety disorder, depression, trauma, maladaptive coping mechanisms, and more. We offer outpatient treatment options where your teen will receive individualized care, group therapy, life skills development, psychiatry, family sessions, and more. Upon admission, each teen is matched with a therapist and case manager who will support them every step of the way.

Contact us 866.522.2084 if your teenager or someone you know needs support battling their mental health issues.


Clear Recovery Center is a mental health treatment facility offering virtual and in-person mental health treatment to California residents. To learn more about our virtual mental health services click here.