Teen mental health challenges and what parents need to know. Let it not be a surprise to parents of teens and our school communities that teen anxiety and teen depression has been steadily increasing and is cause for concern.
Resources are available for your child. Even though these resources are available for help, many teens end up searching online about teen mental health for answers that lead them down the wrong path. This is concerning that teens aren’t speaking up and asking for help. Instead they’re trying to find answers while searching irresponsibly. We need to do a better job talking about teen mental health to our youth.
Teen Mental Health: Who’s Their Trusted Adult
Today’s teens are afraid to speak up and ask for help. Perhaps, many of them might not even realize they need help and think that what they’re feeling is normal. You only know what you know, right?
Let’s take the clinical aspect out of the equation here when talking about teen mental health and allow me to talk friend to friend. I’d like to be non-clinical and address teen mental health as I see it on a daily basis.
Hi! I’m Jeff Yalden and for three decades I’ve worked with teens, school communities and mental health professionals addressing teen mental health and suicide prevention. Although, I am a counselor with an honorary doctorate degree, I like to think I am more of a relationship guy with my clients and I try and take the clinical and be non-clinical in my approach.
Thoughts and Feelings: It’s Okay To Talk
Our youth are struggling with their mental health and they need to know that having thoughts and feelings are okay. Thoughts are thoughts just like an arm is an arm and a leg is a leg. Thoughts are just thoughts. Feelings are more within the body and need to be addressed if they’re dark and painful. Nobody can help you if they don’t know you need help, so talking about thoughts and feelings is okay. If you don’t learn to speak out what you’re thinking and feeling you will find that you’ll end up acting out what you’re thinking and feeling.
Who is a child’s trusted and significant adult? Dr. Phil (I love him!), says, “the most significant person in a child’s life is that same sex parent.“ For many teens they don’t speak to their parents. They’re afraid their parents don’t understand or will try and tell them they shouldn’t feel the way they feel or they’re too young to feel this way. Parents are not listening and doing more self-diagnosing and trying to tell their child how they’re supposed to feel or not supposed to feel. Parents won’t validate their thoughts and feelings. Parents will be judgmental. These are many of the reasons teens are pushing their child further away from feeling comfortable communicating with the very adult they should be going to.
Teens Need A Significant and Trusted Adult to Talk To
Our youth need to have a significant and trusted adult whom they can talk to about teen mental health and other personal thoughts and feelings they’re having. Somebody who will be non-judgmental, respectful, will listen without trying to fix anything, and will validate and support the teen where they are with what that child needs in that moment of challenge. Compassionate listening. A trusted adult they can share their thoughts and feelings and if it’s not you then who?
Encourage your child to find and trust in this person. It can be a teacher, a coach, a counselor at school, their aunt or uncle, a friend’s parents, etc. It’s okay if it’s not you, but you knowing they have someone is what is important.
For our trusted and significant adults remember that holding this space or this teen holding you with such high regard is an honor to have their trust and respect. Keeping your conversations confidential is a must, unless, you are concerned the teen is thinking of harming themself or someone else. If you are concerned about their welfare you have a responsibility to speak to the parents and get the teen the help they need. Don’t try and be the hero, but be the responsible adult. Don’t react. Stay calm and listen, but you have to do the right thing.
Parents: You Can’t Ignore Your Child’s Mental Health
Too many parents are not addressing the mental health of their child and this concerns me greatly. Teen mental health is an epidemic we are still avoiding until it’s too late where we have to do something. If you are more concerned about your families reputation than the well-being of your child than you’re part of the problem and I need you to be part of the solution.
Teen mental health (mental health in general) needs to be less stigmatized and the conversation more normalized. We all have this responsibility to be more open and comfortable being uncomfortable talking about mental health within our own families and supporting other families. We all are affected by mental health.
Furthermore, think about this, five out of five people have physical health. Well, those with physical health also have mental health. That makes it more clear, right? Let’s do our part for our family, our community, our schools, and most importantly for our youth as a whole.
Parents: Recognize the Red Flags
Parents it’s important that you don’t take on the role of family doctor, counselor, or psychiatrist and self-diagnose your child. It’s imperative you address “red flags” early. Red flags are behaviors or emotions that you might see in your child that are out of the ordinary. It might be just your child acting out, but there very well could be other issues that are contributing to your child having a mental health challenge. Regardless of what you think or feel, take all signs seriously and address it right away.
Start by talking to your child about life, teen mental health, suicide prevention. Google teen mental health, teen anxiety, teen depression, etc. Educate yourself and take the responsible approach. The more proactive and educated you are the more likely you’ll be able to give your child what they need and help them to not feel like something is seriously wrong.
See something; say something. Know something; do something.
When you see something you need to say something. When you know something do something. Most of all, do your part to normalize the conversation and be open about talking mental health within your family and to your children. You’ll be thankful you did. Encourage your child to open up and talk. Let them know that talking about their thoughts and feelings is not a weakness and that it takes courage to talk and be vulnerable. Be the example and talk about your thoughts and feelings and show them it’s okay and that you end up feeling better talking it out. It’s great to have someone you can vent to without judgment.
Mental Health Challenge or Mental Health Crisis
A mental health challenge is where a situation occurs that affects one’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Whereas, a mental health crisis is when this situation that affects one’s thoughts, feelings and behavior turns towards self-harming behaviors, thoughts of harming oneself or harming others.
Mental Health Challenges
Mental health challenges are a part of everyone’s life – it’s okay. I’m seeing that our teens are really struggling with coping skills and problem solving skills. As adults, we learned a lot about coping and solving problems because we were always involved and put in situations where we had to learn. Today, our youth are consumed by their devices and less active in sports and organizations. Isolation is toxic. Our youth need to recognize patterns that affect their thoughts and feelings. They need to learn to reframe and change the narrative. Also, they need less time on their devices comparing their world to the world people put out there. This comes with having a growth mindset and educating yourself further on mental health.
Mental Health Crisis
A mental health crisis needs to be addressed immediately and most certainly requires time, patience, and the help of a medical professional and/or a mental health professional. Don’t react or ignore this. It’s okay, but it’s imperative you don’t not do anything and hope it goes away. By ignoring it there is a real good possibility it will manifest and show up in other ways later in life. Always live on the front end of your or your child’s mental wellness rather than the backend, because if you’re parenting on the backend you’ll at some point with you had parented on the front end and been responsible and proactive. Don’t pave the road ahead for your child, but rather prepare your child for the road ahead. It’s up to you to give them the support and help then need to manage their thoughts and emotions.
Mental Health: Take All Signs Seriously
Again, take all signs seriously. See something; say something. Know something; do something. Don’t self-diagnose your child. Finally, just because you don’t have a mental health condition doesn’t mean your child won’t have one and it’s nothing you did. It’s not about you. It’s all about your child and address it early because we can live normal and healthy lives by accepting it, addressing it, and finding tools and maybe even medication to manage mental health conditions.
Social Pressures our Youth are Faced with Today
Growing up today as a teen is vastly different than it was five years ago, ten years ago, or thirty years ago and it will continue to be challenging. Also, parenting and teaching today is also different than it was in this 5 year, 10 year or thirty year time frame. It’s a different world and only getting more and more difficult to navigate. Let’s think proactive and being the victor and not the victim.
Today’s youth are facing something that we as adults don’t necessarily understand fully. The daily pressures at school and when our teens are home are really challenging because today they’re lacking coping skills and problem solving skills and spending too much time isolating.
Teens: Devices and Smartphones
Our devices such as tablets and smartphones have become our connection to the world making social interaction and communication something we don’t do anymore – even makes us feel somewhat uncomfortable engaging with others. It’s leading our youth and even many (too many) of our adults (parents) to isolate and spend far too much time on their own devices setting a poor example for our children. The problem is that as adults we should know better about the effects our devices and the chemical dopamine and addiction have on us. You can’t expect a child or teen to understand when their brains don’t fully develop until they’re around the age of 23-25 or so.
Years ago we got away with a lot. There weren’t cameras everywhere or people weren’t always on social media all hours of the day reporting everything they see. Today’s youth can’t get away with what we as adults were able to. It’s absolutely exhausting for today’s youth. They’re constantly on 24/7/365.
When your child says, “I’m tired!” It doesn’t necessarily mean, They’re tired and they need to go to sleep. It means they’re tired in ways sleep can’t help. Parents need to mandate off time and teach their children responsible behaviors with their devices and boundaries. Parents need to take their devices away from their children and certainly not let their children sleep with their devices. Important you understand this. Your child doesn’t realize the amount of time they’re on their devices and the effects of dopamine and comparing their lives to other people’s lives.
When a teen says,
“Mr. Yalden, I’m tired in ways sleep cannot help!”
What do you think it means?
How Many Hours A Day Should Your Teen Be Online
In my book, Teen Suicide: The WHY Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic, I said that 4-5 or more hours a day on your devices and you’re 70% more likely to have major depression in your life.
I’ll also say this, in the next decade we will see a 30% increase in teen suicide and teen drug and/or alchohol related deaths.
This could be a suicide attempt or just reckless behavior associated with self-harming behaviors and today we are seeing more boys than girls self-harming themselves. Pay attention and address all “red flags” accordingly. Don’t react and be emotional. Stop and think. This is a moment where your child needs you and they need you to understand it’s not you and it’s them asking for help but not knowing how or who to go to. I don’t want you pushing your child further away.
Research and the Teenagers’ Brain
If we’re to categorize teens today we’ve had Gen Y, Gen X, Gen Z, the Millennials and more. Now we have Furries and I’ve also said we have Generation SOS, which I politely call Generation Stuck on Stupid. Sorry. Think about that, teens are stuck on stupid sometimes with what they say and do. How they act and how they think. They’re teens. We were all there. It’s growing through life and figuring out who they are as we tried to figure out ourselves then.
I said I was going to take the clinical and be non-clinical, but I have to just add this . . .
There is a lot of research that says teenagers’ brains aren’t fully developed until they’re about 25 years old. This is important to understand and critical to understanding the consequences of one’s actions and controlling their impulses.
Think of it this way, decisions that are made at younger ages, the prefrontal cortex is there to help with reasoning and helping the child understand cause and effect and what possibilities could happen. If the brain isn’t fully developed, they might not be able to fully grasp that concept of ‘if I do this, this is going to happen to me.’
Mass Shootings and School Shootings
Oftentimes, there is no explanation as to the reason for these violent acts mostly occurring by teenage boys or young men. There is a lot of investigators and researchers trying to determine why these mass shootings and school shootings keep occurring, but it’s unexplainable right now. We can speculate and theorize as we all do and there is truth to what we are thinking but let’s leave that to the findings of those doing the work to determine the causes.
I can tell you this, we live in a broken society and too many people are in pain and suffering from mental health conditions that are going undiagnosable and more importantly untreated by mental health professionals.
This is important for parents and parenting your child. This is important for our families. Would you agree that it starts in the home. It takes a village to raise our young men and young ladies. It takes a community that comes together and supports our families and the people. You can say church and God. You can say our schools. You can say what you want but it all starts at the very corp within the families four walls. We need to do our part and that is communicate and normalize the conversation around mental health. Let’s all silence the stigma and be part of the solution. We all matter in preventing the next mass shooting or school shooting. We all matter in preventing the next teen suicide or suicide.
Concerning Signs of Teen Mental Health Turning Violent
It starts with those “Red Flags” I’ve been talking about. If you recognize concerning signs, behaviors, or emotions it’s time you intervene and address it. Address it immediately. There are plenty of resources available, plus google and educate yourself by asking questions and finding the right answers.
One thing we do know is that pinpointing teen mental health conditions such as teen depression and teen anxiety turning violent isn’t so easy, because each case has to be evaluated on an individual basis because the signs are different for each and every person.
If a child or your teen is more reserved than ever before such as not talking as much, grades changing, changing of friendships or circle of friends, if you’re seeing drastic changes in your child, those are signs.
Reach out to Teen Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Speaker Jeff Yalden: The Perfect Speaker for School Assemblies
If you’re a teacher in middle school or high school interested in teen mental health please contact Jeff Yalden at www.JeffYalden.com. If you’re a parent and you’re concerned about the well-being of your own child you can also reach out to Jeff Yalden by visiting his website www.JeffYalden.com and going to the parenting section of his website for resources, videos, or to book Jeff to work with you and your child.
If you know a teen struggling with a mental health crisis please do something with non-judgment immediately.
Who is Jeff Yalden:
Jeff started speaking to schools and school communities about teen mental health while he was in the Marine Corps stationed in Jacksonville, FL after he witnessed the suicide of one of his Marines.
Since then, Jeff has spoken in over 49 countries, all 50 states, and to every province in Canada. He’s inspired, educated, and given hope to millions of people live in-person and online media outlets.
From 2005-2012, Jeff was the celebrity teen and family life coach for MTV’s EMMY Award Winning Reality Television Show MADE. Over 85 million people watched Jeff transform teens and families on a weekly basis.
He’s a four-time bestselling author, TEDx speaker, mental health speaker, consultant, and advocate for teen mental health and families. Jeff is an avid golfer and yoga teacher and makes his home in Jacksonville, FL with his English Bulldog, Sugar Bear.
For more information, please visit www.JeffYalden.com.