Adolescent 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 struggling with challenges like anxiety and suicide who feel their parents don’t understand. Not surprisingly, I also work with parents of young adults who want to help their kids but can’t seem to connect. It can be frustrating that people who matter deeply to each other misread the signs at important emotional junctures, but what I teach parents is how to listen to your teen. And help them feel supported so they can move forward.

Roughly 50 percent of teens meet the criteria for a psychiatric diagnosis at some point, and we’ve all heard about the high suicide rates as well as mental health issues among teens. While young adults yearn for autonomy, the prefrontal cortex—the part of the brain that flexibly thinks and manages impulses—continues to develop until age 25, which means that no matter how mature they are, Your teen needs adult help when it comes to controlling emotions. Dealing with crises

Still, I’ve seen even the best of parents panic when their child is struggling with mental health issues, then inadvertently say the wrong thing, like “You’re overreacting.” Sometimes they give too much space to children, believing that their teenager will come to them with problems. But there are effective ways to empower your teen, including working on managing their emotions, asking the right questions, and helping them determine the level of support they need.

Practice being kind and non-judgmental: To increase the likelihood that your teen will open up to you during difficult times, it is helpful to be open and warm in normal moments. It can also help to remind yourself that feeling distress is part of being a young adult, says psychologist Lisa Damore, author of “Under Pressure” and co-host of the podcast “Ask Lisa: The Psychology of Parenting.” Huh. “Part of how we can support young people is to normalize stress,” she says.

Don’t Be a “Snowplow Parent”: It is not your job to spot any potential problems your teen may be facing. Experiencing and coping with mistakes and setbacks can prove to be a “hidden curriculum” that helps young adults grow and find their purpose, say Belle Liang and Timothy Klein, authors of “How to Navigate Life.”

Many parents I treat, especially those who experience anxiety themselves, feel eager to save the day for non-urgent issues such as helping their teen work late. It only prevents their young adult from learning from the consequences and developing better problem-solving skills. Instead, Dumore recommends listening and empathizing, which reduces the intensity of negative feelings. Rather than entering fix-it mode, the goal should be to “help your young person build a broad repertoire of skills to manage,” Damour advises. This may include talking about developing healthy habits such as getting enough sleep, exercising, and abstaining from substances.

Give them hope: If your teen is dealing with more serious issues than average stress, such as depression or anxiety, let them know that what they’re experiencing isn’t permanent and that feeling better is possible and within reach. “Depression symptoms don’t define you, they are part of your life experience and will change through effort, coping strategies and finding the right support,” advises Jessica Schlader, a psychologist and assistant professor at Stonybrook University. . Schlader has developed brief single session interventions that are free online, which help reduce frustration and depression, especially if you are waiting to see a professional.

About thoughts of self-harm, ask: However, if you’re concerned that your child is considering suicide or self-harm, says David Jobson, a psychologist and professor at Catholic University, “the biggest thing is to gather yourself and talk about it.” Find a way to ask directly.” who developed the collaborative evaluation and management of suicide, an evidence-based clinical intervention to help prevent suicide. He encourages parents to build on their strengths, reach out to your loved one at good times when you have their undivided attention, then be direct — “Do things ever get so bad that you think about suicide? Do you ever have thoughts of doing something that will hurt yourself? — and make sure you’re ready to hear the answer. “You need to listen and hold it, rather than invalidate, undo, or point out things,” says Jobs. “You want to convey the message That we are here, whether it is physically, or emotionally; on the phone, or by text. We’ve got you.

Many young adults are afraid to talk about suicidal feelings with their parents, which can mean that suicidal thoughts are not discussed unless there is an emergency. That’s why it’s so important to lay the groundwork for your teen to feel comfortable sharing. Also, keep in mind that suicidal thoughts are fairly common, with about 10 percent of people having these thoughts during their lifetime.

“We can all have thoughts that feel awful, they’re just thoughts, and we can talk about them together,” Schlader says. While suicidal feelings can feel terrifying and warrant seeking professional help, remember that you should be someone your child can turn to, so don’t overreact. Instead, aim to go into these conversations drawn from potential resources.

Lean on research-based approaches: As a parent, Jobs says, you can call a crisis hotline and use tools like the Stanley-Brown Safety Plan, and share these with your teen, giving them some agency. which they find helpful. Some help to encourage a job search while you wait to see a professional include a crisis text line, the national hotline 988, an exploration of Dialectical Behavior Therapy – an evidence-based approach to treating suicidal feelings – at Now Matters Now or DBT – Contents included. ru, or joining the Live Experience Academy or Peer-Led Alternatives to Suicide. Definitely take precautions and stay away from any lethal means.

Despite conventional wisdom, when the risk of suicide is not imminent, medications such as SSRIs or hospitalization may not be needed. Instead, Jobs encourages understanding the drivers that may be causing your child to have thoughts about suicide and recognizing how to reduce the risk of suicide by directly addressing the challenges that fuel your child’s suicidal feelings. Psychiatrists offer several options, including receiving. After decades of experience in the field of teen suicide, Jobs has observed that “what lies at the heart of most suicide struggles are relational issues.” These can include anything from bullying at home to school to a romantic breakup, says Jobs, and those concerns usually don’t improve with medications or hospitalization.

One of the suicide prevention studies I think about often in my work is psychiatrist Jerome Motto’s simple but life-saving discovery that therapists send brief, caring check-in messages that show someone Invested in the well-being of the individual, can significantly reduce the risk of suicide. Communicating that you truly care and are there, repeatedly and without judgment, is a profound gift.

No matter what the young adult you love is facing, consider your role, as Jobs laid out, “Like a lighthouse, just keep sending messages, I’m here. There.” There are rocks. I will continue to send a beam of light to help guide you, but you are the captain of your ship, and together we can get you to shore safely.

Jenny Taitz, PsyD, ABPP, is a clinical psychologist and assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles. She is the author of an upcoming book on stress, “how to be single and happy,” And “end emotional eating,

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