Teen mental health issues are on the rise. Here’s how parents can help.


As a clinical psychologist, I often find myself sitting across from college students with challenges like anxiety and suicidality, who trust their parents don’t understand. Not surprisingly, I also work with parents of young adults who want to help their children but don’t seem to connect. It can be frustrating when people who care about each other deeply misread the cues at critical emotional junctures, but part of what I teach parents is how to help teens feel heard and supported so they can move forward.

nearly 50 percent of Teens meet criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis at some point, and we’ve all heard about unmet mental health issues in teens along with suicide rates. As young adults crave independence, the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that flexibly manages thinking and managing impulses— It continues to develop into adulthood 25which means that no matter how mature they seem, your teen needs adult help when it comes to regulating emotions and dealing with crises.

However, I’ve seen even the most picky parents panic when their child has mental health issues and then inadvertently say something wrong like, “You’re overreacting.” Sometimes, they make a lot of room for the kids, assuming their teen will come to them with a problem. But there are effective ways to empower your teen, including working on management your feelingsasking the right questions and helping to determine the level of support they need.

Practice kindness and non-judgment. To make your teen more likely to open up to you in difficult times, it helps to be open and warm in normal moments. It can also help to remind yourself that feeling upset is part of being a young adult, says psychologist Lisa D’Amore, author of “Your Heartache.”under pressure, and co-host of the podcast Ask Lisa: The Psychology of Parenting. “Part of how we support young people is to normalize stress,” she says.

Don’t be an “Icebreaker Parent”: It is not your job to remove any potential problems your teen is facing. Experiencing and dealing with mistakes and failures can be a “hidden curriculum” that helps young people grow and find their purpose, say Bill Liang and Timothy Klein, authors of “How to navigate life. “

Many parents I treat, especially those who struggle with anxiety themselves, are excited to rush in to save the day over non-pressing issues like helping their teen catch up on an overdue assignment. This only prevents them from learning from the consequences and developing better problem-solving skills. Instead, Damour recommends listening and empathy, which can reduce the intensity of negative feelings. Rather than getting into repair mode, the goal should be to “help your young adult build a broader repertoire to manage,” D’Amore advises. This may include talking about developing healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, exercising, and staying away from substances.

Give them hope: If your teen has problems that are more serious than normal stress, such as depression or anxiety, tell them that what they’re struggling with isn’t permanent and that feeling better is possible and within reach. “Symptoms of depression do not define you, they are part of your life experience and will change through effort, adaptive coping strategies, and finding appropriate support,” advises Jessica Schleider, a psychologist and assistant professor at Stonybrook University. advanced schleider Brief one-session interventions Free online, which helps reduce despair and depression, especially if you are waiting to meet a professional.

Ask about thoughts of self-harm: However, if you’re concerned that your child is considering suicide or self-harm, “the most important thing is to gather yourself and find a way to ask about it directly,” says David Jobs, a psychologist and professor at Catholic University who developed the collaborative Assessment and management of suicideAn evidence-based clinical intervention to help prevent suicide. He encourages parents to muster their strength, connect with loved ones at a good time when you have their undivided attention, and then be direct—”Are things so bad that you’re contemplating suicide? Have you ever thought about doing things to hurt yourself?”—and making sure you’re ready to hear. the answer. “You have to listen to it and just hear it and keep it, rather than invalidate it or pre-empt it or point it out,” Jobs says. “You want to get the message across that we’re here, whether it’s physical or emotional; on the phone or by text. We have it for you.”

Many young people are terrified of bringing up suicidal feelings with their parents, which may mean not discussing suicidal thoughts until there is an emergency. That’s why it’s so important to lay the foundation that your teen feels comfortable participating. Also, keep in mind that suicidal thoughts are fairly common, approx 10 percent of People have these thoughts throughout their lives.

“We can all have thoughts that seem weird, they’re just thoughts, and we can talk about them together,” Schleider says, adding that it’s crucial for your teen to know they can come to you. While suicidal feelings can be terrifying and warrant seeking professional help, remember that you need to be someone your child can turn to, so don’t overreact. Instead, aim to enter these conversations prepared with potential resources.

Rely on research-based methods: As a parent, Jobs says, you can call crisis hotlines and use tools, such as Stanley Brown’s safety plan, and share them with your teen, giving them some agency over what seems to work for them. Some of the help Jobs encourages you to explore, while waiting to meet a professional, includes a crisis line, the 988 national hotline, exploring dialectical behavior therapy – an evidence-based approach to treating suicidal feelings – content on Now Matters Now or DBT-RU, or joining Lived Experience Academy or peer-led alternatives to suicide. Definitely take precautions and remove access to any lethal tool.

Despite conventional wisdom, when the threat of suicide is not imminent, medications such as SSRIs or hospitalization may not be needed. Instead, Jobs encourages an understanding of the triggers that cause your child to consider suicide and offers your child a range of options, including psychological therapies recognized for reducing them. risk of suicide, such as dialectical behavior therapy, to deal directly with the challenges that fuel suicidal feelings. After decades of experience with teen suicide, Jobs noted that “at the core of most suicidal struggles are relationship issues.” This can include anything from problems at home to bullying at school to romantic breakups, and medication or hospitalization generally doesn’t improve these concerns as much as psychotherapy does, Jobs says.

One study in suicide prevention that I often think of in my work is that of psychiatrist Jerome Muto, which is simple yet lifesaving. Finding Sending clinicians brief, caring check-in messages that show someone is invested in a person’s well-being can significantly reduce suicide risk. Expressing that you truly care and are there, frequently and without judgment, is a profound gift.

No matter what the young adult you love faces, consider your role, as Jobs describes it, “Like a beacon, just keep sending the message, I’m here. There are rocks out there. I’ll keep sending a beacon of light to help guide you, but you’re the captain of your own ship, and we can together to get you safely to the shore.”

Jenny Taitz, PsyD, ABPP, is a clinical psychologist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of a soon-to-be-released book on stress,”How to be single and happy,” And the “Quit emotional eating. “

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