On March 2nd, we recognized World Teen Mental Wellness Day, a day where the psychological health of teens around the world is given awareness. It is an important day to highlight the importance of the mental health of adolescents across the world and to encourage removing stigma about their struggles.
1 in 5 teens across America are diagnosed or are struggling with a mental illness, a staggering 20% of the teenage population. These mental illnesses can range from anxiety and depression to schizophrenia and personality disorders. Adolescents are extremely susceptible to the negative and positive influences of the world around them and struggling with mental illness can only make things more difficult for them. For those struggling and feel that they have no one to turn to, teens turn to suicide, the second leading cause of death for their age group.
The main question is… How can we help this problem?
One answer can be: look out for the teens in your life. If you notice excessive sleeping, lack of eating or overeating, difficulty concentrating, isolation from loved ones, and/or disinterest in previous hobbies, these may be signs of a teen struggling with mental illness. Other signs may be complaints of general malaise (like nausea, headaches, etc.) and even disobedience or aggression. Teens may not know how to express their emotions or feel that they are alone in their thoughts/behavior. Be an open, accepting ear for them. Let them know that you are there for them to talk about their life and that they are not alone in how they may feel.
Another way to help is to make sure that you teach your children from a young age the importance of their mental health. Inform them about the symptoms of common mental illnesses and to be in touch with their emotions. Establish yourself as a safe place to discuss even the darkest thoughts they may have, with a judgment free zone! It is important to encourage open communication, where an adolescent feels free to be open and fully themselves. If they are comfortable having these discussions, it may be easier for them to approach treatment options in the future.
One of the best ways to help is to be open about your own mental health towards adolescents. Let them know that they are not alone and show them ways you help yourself through a difficult mental time frame. Modeling good self-care and mental well-being can be a great way to help guide teens towards building a better relationship with their own brain and self-identity.
Overall, being an encouraging and loving person is a great way to help teens with mental illness. Try to understand their struggles and know that this time in their life may feel like the most difficult thing they have ever been through (because it may very well be!) Advocate for their mental health and their own knowledge about it and model positive behavior toward your own mental health.
Written by Emma, Undergrad Intern 2021
If you are concerned about a teen in your life and would like to speak to a professional counselor or psychologist about this, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.