Pain in Plain Sight: Teen Mental Health Can Often Be Masked or Hidden

It can be tough as a parent to keep track of your teen’s moods. The teenage years are often characterized as a time of extreme moods-ecstatic with a new relationship, crushed because they didn’t make the team, enraged over tiny things, and other almost outrageous emotional outbursts. But actual mental health struggles teens face can be masked by these extremes.

Should teen mental health struggle be obscured or hidden, it is far more likely that your teen will develop maladaptive coping methods. If left unchecked, these harmful coping methods can require your teen to use the services of a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens to help reset and get back on the right path.

Essential To Address Mental Health Issues While Young

Sometimes, parents can be tempted to engage in a “wait and see” kind of parenting when it comes to their teens. The hope is that given time, their teens will simply outgrow their emotional outbursts and associated bad behaviors. However, instead of outgrowing poor behavior, teens hiding mental health struggles can carry their maladaptive coping behaviors into adulthood.

For example, say that your teenage son is struggling with depression. Some depressed teenage boys will lash out with anger to express their depression. So, without treatment, your teen boy may end up raging at family members and friends for years beyond the teenage years, as that was the only way he knew how to express his deep feelings of depression.

These kinds of poor coping skills can be more difficult to change the longer they are used. So, it is critical that parents get their teens’ help for their mental health while their teenagers still live at home.

Signs Your Teen May Be Struggling With Depression Or Anxiety

There are a number of signs that parents can look for if they are worried that their teens are suffering from depression and anxiety. Even if your teen is struggling with other forms of mental illness, often these signs will also appear. Some of the most common signs are:

  • Loses interests in hobbies, usual pastimes, and other things they once enjoyed.
  • Appetite changes, whether overeating or loss of appetite.
  • Aversion to social situations of any size or type.
  • Low self-esteem, both expressed verbally and shown in poor hygiene.
  • Mercurial moods swinging from sadness and depression to frustration, irritability, and anger.
  • Substance abuse to self-medicate feelings.
  • Change in sleep patterns, whether insomnia or sleep more than usual.
  • Engaging in self-harm and suicide ideation, with potential suicide attempts.

How Parents Can Help Teens Struggling With Mental Health

If you have recognized some of the above signs in your teenager, it is important for you to take action. Some of the ways that parents of struggling teens can help are:

Open Lines Of Communication

Teens can struggle to talk to their parents about just about anything, so as the parent, it is on you to open the lines of communication. It doesn’t have to be serious all the time—simply talking about shows your teen is currently watching, or their hobbies can be an important part of opening up the channels of communication.

Watch What You Say

It can be easy to make stigmatizing comments, such as, “Ugh, Susan is such a wet blanket,” or “Dave’s anxiety about everything is so draining.” While there may be some truth to these statements, it can leave a sensitive, struggling teen worried about what you would think if they told you that they were having mental health issues.

Best to keep your comments—especially if they deal with mental health—between you and your partner or friends so that your teen doesn’t become afraid to confide in you.

Make Time For One-On-One

Your teen is far more likely to open up about their difficulties when they are with you one-on-one than around other family members. To give your teen more opportunities to talk privately with you, set up at least once a week to have one-on-one excursions.

It can be as simple as going on evening walks or on a drive and grabbing an ice cream cone. Not only can you provide opportunities to talk with your teen, but it gives you both valuable bonding time.

Have Teen Attend Therapy

Therapy is an essential component for teens who are struggling with their mental health. Some parents feel that their children should be able to depend on them rather than a therapist. But thinking this way can be counter-productive to finding real help for a depressed or anxious teen.

Instead, consider this—a therapist has years of schooling and experience to help your teen find the right tools to help them thrive. Also, your teen may feel more secure opening up to a neutral third-party, as therapists are trained to help guide neutrally. With the right therapist, your teen can open up and learn effective tools to manage their mental health struggles.

Provide Consistent Support

Your support can make a huge difference in the long-term to your teen. As your teen works on managing their mental health, they will have good days and bad days. On the worse days, your support can mean the difference between spiraling out-of-control or just having a hard day.

This support can be verbally expressed, simply provided your presence, and expressed by making time for your teen when they ask for help.

Validate Your Teen

Mental illness struggles are invisible, and due to the lack of visible problems, often those who are struggling with mental health issues face doubt, from others, and self-doubt. Having you in your teen’s corner, providing validation, and believing in them can make a huge difference in how your teenager responds to treatment.

Consider Therapeutic Boarding School

Sometimes, no matter what parents do, it is not enough to help their teen through their mental health struggles. In these cases, a boarding school for troubled teens can be an excellent resource.

While attending a boarding school for troubled teens, students receive regular therapy along with continuing their studies. The environment is supportive and designed to maximize the therapeutic mission of these schools, helping teens learn new, positive skills.

If you are interested in learning more about our specific program for troubled teenage boys, feel free to contact us today to talk to a program advisor. We are more than happy to answer your questions and help you determine what is the best course of action for your struggling teen.

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