Is Your Teen Is Struggling With Mental Health Issues?
We all know teens can be moody. But, what’s the difference between a normal bad mood and a burgeoning mental health problem such as serious depression or anxiety?
Dr. Aaron Krasner, an adolescent psychiatrist at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, CT says that one in five teens will develop a serious mental health disorder by age 15. Often, however, the parent isn’t aware of the issue and the teen won’t get the help they need, until years later. “Only 20 percent of children with mental disorders are identified and receive necessary mental health services.” We as a society should do better than that.
Signs of Mental Health Issues
A number of signs can alert parents to problems, Krasner said. These include significant changes in behavior at home or school, an unexpected decline in school performance, and mood changes that are more extreme than before.
Other possible warning signs include changes in physical health or appearance, including weight gain or loss; neglecting personal hygiene; a new group of friends; difficulty coping with problems and daily activities; persistent nightmares; alcohol and/or drug abuse; frequent outbursts of aggression or anger; threats of harm to themselves or others; self-injury or self-destructive behavior; and threatening to run away.
Another cause for concern is depression, which involves extended negative mood and attitude, often accompanied by poor appetite, sleep problems and thoughts of death, Krasner said.
If parents suspect mental health problems in their teen, they must keep the lines of communication open, he added.
“Teen mental health issues are ‘family affairs’ — they can have a devastating effect on families, and it’s essential that the entire family is involved in working through them,” Krasner said.
If you believe your teen needs professional help, ask your child’s pediatrician for a referral to a child psychologist or psychiatrist, Krasner advised.