It can be hard to admit that your teen has a mental health issue. As a parent, you’d like to chalk it up to moodiness, but you feel that it may be more. It also will help to know the facts, and to realize that you and your teen are certainly not alone. Once you and your teen can accept the realities, then it’s time for real change to happen. Through hard work and dedication, healing and coping with the challenges can begin to take place. Here are the five most important facts to know about teen mental health.
Mental Illness Is Common in Teens
The number of teens with mental illness has risen in the past decade. Studies have shown that about one in seven kids and teens has a mental health condition, but half go untreated. In other studies, approximately one in five youth aged 13–18 (or 21.4 percent) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8 to 15, the estimate is 13 percent. In fact, today, mental illness is more prevalent for teens than poverty, bullying, and drug addiction.
Depression and Anxiety Are Most Common in Teens
Mental illness is common in teens, but it goes a bit further than that. There are three types of mental illnesses which are most common among adolescents and young adults:
- Generalized anxiety: excessive worrying
- Social phobias: excessive insecurity/anxiety
- Depression: excessive sadness
In 2014, it was reported that more than one in 10 teens between 12 and 17 experienced an episode of major depression. That meant that for two weeks, they could not function normally and lost interest in activities, among other symptoms.
Mental Health Problems Start Earlier Than Expected
Pre-teens and even younger kids may show signs of depression that reach into teen and young adult years. Research has shown that a possible 1 to 2 percent of young kids between ages 2 and 5 are depressed. Experts say to be on the lookout for sadness and low self-esteem that may be tough to pull out of in adolescence. If it’s not nipped in the bud, it can lead to deeper depression later in life.
Social Media Increases Mental Health Problems in Teens
It’s become increasingly clear that a teen’s mental health is significantly affected by social media and other cultural trends that impact a young person’s sense of well-being. Here’s why:
- Less face-to-face interaction to experience empathy and meaningful connection
- More potential opportunities for and involvement with cyberbullying
- Poor sleep patterns due to excessive use of social media
- Low self-esteem due to constant comparisons on social media
Researchers point out that the rate of teen depression has risen since 2011, which is concurrent with the increased use of smartphones and the ingestion of digital content and media.
Teens Are Diagnosed Differently
It is possible for a teen’s primary care physician to screen and diagnose a mental health problem. However, it helps to know that the specific criteria used to diagnose an adult and a teen’s mental state are different. The doctor will need to know your teen’s symptoms and your concerns. But they will also need to look at a more comprehensive view of your teen’s life to make a diagnosis.
Your doctor will look for a general change in grades, disinterest in friends, and unusual anger or irritability. If one of those symptoms is present, then the doctor will move forward to assess other criteria. For example, five out of the following seven symptoms must be present for a doctor to diagnose a teen with a mental health problem:
- Sleep pattern changes
- Guilt feelings
- Energy level changes
- Lack of concentration, focus, or completion of tasks
- Appetite changes
- Lack of motivation
- Suicidal thoughts
Occasional bouts of anger or laziness are usually not a reason to worry. But if these symptoms persist every day for at least two weeks, it’s time to talk to a doctor.
If you have received a mental illness diagnosis for your child or are concerned about your teen’s mental state, reach out for help. Visit turningwinds.com to learn more as well as about how a comprehensive therapeutic program paired with a school environment might help your child’s state of overall mental health and well-being. Together we can make a difference in your teen’s life!