Anxiety and depression can be debilitating conditions for anyone to manage, but for a teenager who is already dealing with hormonal surges, educational pressures, and new social relationships and experiences, mental health issues can be even more complex and overwhelming. They may be confused about their emotions and are often reluctant to seek support or advice in case they are ridiculed or told they are overreacting. This means that it’s crucial that parents are aware of the potential signs and symptoms of mental health issues so they can be proactive in providing support and finding them the help they need.
Here we summarize the key ways in which parents can support their teenage child who is suffering from anxiety and/or depression.
Recognizing the Signs
It can sometimes be tricky to recognize the difference between sadness or anger which may be caused by fluctuating hormones and a mental health condition. However, if your teenager’s mood is consistently low for more than a couple of weeks and their behavior and personality have changed, they may be struggling with anxiety or depression. For example, if their performance or behavior at school has worsened, they have stopped hobbies or activities they used to enjoy and withdraw from friends and family, they may be struggling with their mental health.
Listen to them
Teenagers are often reluctant to talk to their parents openly about their worries, but it’s important that they can speak to you if they need to. Simply knowing that you’re there for them can make a big difference, especially if they are feeling isolated. If they do try to talk to you about their emotions or issues, make sure you are listening actively without criticizing, judging, interrupting or trying to find solutions. If you are concerned that your teenager’s use of social media is worsening their condition, try to arrange time with them away from screens such as walks outside or board games so that you can reconnect.
Educate yourself about depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety are conditions often ignored or misdiagnosed in teenagers, and many young people may not realize that they are suffering. There is a tendency for depressed individuals to blame themselves or to see themselves as weak. Mental health conditions can often bring physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, sweating, racing pulse, feeling sick and digestion problems. It’s important that you educate yourself about the condition and its related symptoms so you can pass this knowledge on to your teenager.
Help them with their physical health
Many people underestimate the connection between physical and mental health, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be very beneficial for adults and teenagers dealing with mental health issues. It’s important that you are encouraging and supporting your teenager to follow a balanced and nutritious diet and to follow a regular sleep routine. Physical exercise has also been proven to have a positive impact on symptoms of depression and anxiety so you might want to organize activities you can do together.
Seek professional help
Sometimes teenagers are resistant to help from their parents or may be so unwell that professional support and treatment are necessary. If you are worried about your teenager, you should speak to your family doctor about your options. There are also specialist mental health treatment centers, like Ignite Teen Treatment, which offers treatment plans for a range of issues.
Remember to take care of yourself
To be able to provide the best support and care for your teenager, you need to be in good health physically and mentally. Try to set a positive example for your teenager and any other children by eating well, exercising and getting plenty of sleep.