Managing Your Teen’s Mental Health (Issues)

March 4, 2013 at 5:44 am 4 comments

Have you ever been in your own world, and someone makes a statement that completely changes your perspective, or as my mother used to say “disturbs the calm peace of your soul”? It happened to me today. I was sitting in church waiting for the sermon to begin, slightly distracted (with all of the things I wanted to accomplish later), and the pastor started talking about mental illness and the shame often associated with it. I kind of dismissed the topic because it didn’t seem relevant to me or my family members, but the more he talked, the more the sermon topic affected me.

When I talk to people about mental illness, I think of schizophrenia and manic depression (bipolar disorder). Those are probably the most widely known mental illnesses. Mild chronic depression (dysthymic disorder), affects about 3.3 million American adults over the age of 18, per year: One in five children experience mild depression before adulthood. Ten to fifteen percent of children and adolescents have some symptoms of depression. Those symptoms include restlessness, irritability, thoughts of death or suicide. Excluding the thoughts of death and suicide, restlessness and irritability are common moods experienced by teens, and not easily noticed by parents and caregivers.

My pastor’s topic centered around the fact that people close to us, like our family members can be affected by mental illness and often we are ashamed of those family members. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. When you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you modify your diet and take medication to get better. For most mental illnesses, you can take medication, see a therapist or mental health professional and lessen or improve one’s symptoms. But because of the stigma attached to mental health, many people do not get the help they need before it’s too late.

As parents, how do we recognize the signs of mental illness in our teens and help them handle their everyday pressures and decisions? According to Dr. Arthur Schoenstadt, there is no one cause of depression. Factors like a family history of depression or substance abuse, certain medical conditions, gender, stressful life events, or personality types increase a teen’s chance of developing depression. Most often, once identified and acknowledged, depression is treatable with psychotherapy and antidepressants.

In my own family, there is a history of brilliance and mental illness. My uncle Donald, whom I never had the good fortune of meeting, was a brilliant scholar who committed suicide in his early twenties. Nobody (in the family) ever talked about him or really understood what he was facing that would cause him to take his life. My brother suffered with Crohns’ disease for about five years before deciding to end his life. As I write this article, my heart goes out to parents who never recognized the signs of mental illness in their deceased teen, whether it was depression, bipolar, eating, conduct disorders, or schizophrenia. Your teen is not just having a series of bad days, and once the season changes, will feel better. They may need meds to feel better.

Here are some symptoms to watch for:
– Very angry much of time, cries a lot, or overreacts to things;
– Worthless or guilty a lot;
Anxious or worried a lot more than other young people;
– Grief for a long time after a loss or death;
– Extremely fearful-has unexplained fears or more fears than most kids;
– Constantly concerned about physical problems or appearance;
– Frightened that his or her mind is controlled or is out of control.

If you suspect that your child or teen is experiencing any of these issues, contact your child’s school psychologist or talk to a mental health professional.

C. Lynn Williams,
Author and Parenting Coach

Trying to Stay Sane While Raising Your Teen (St. Paul Press, 2010)
The Pampered Prince: Moms Create a GREAT Relationship with Your Son (St. Paul Press, 2012)

Entry filed under: depression, Parenting, pay attention, teen suicide. Tags: , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. The Double Parent  |  March 26, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Thanks for stopping by The Double Parent. I am well impressed by what I have read here and am looking forward to reading more, especially as I have a ‘tween’.

    • 2. clwilliams27  |  April 7, 2013 at 2:16 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. I usually post weekly. Stay tuned.

  • 3. health & medical  |  July 24, 2014 at 1:19 pm

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    Managing Your Teen’s Mental Health (Issues) | Staying Sane While Raising Your Teens

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    Managing Your Teen’s Mental Health (Issues) | Staying Sane While Raising Your Teens


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