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Adolescent and Teenage Mental Health: How to Manage it and Where to Go for Help

Mental health is an essential part of a persons well-being, there is a lot a parent or guardian can do to promote good mental health in a teenager’s life. It is also important to educate yourself on what to do if you think your pre-teen or teenage child has a mental health problem. Mental health is a way of describing a persons social and emotional well-being. Your child needs a good mental health to develop in a healthy way, deal with life’s challenges, build strong relationships with people and learn how to adapt to change. Some teenagers are more at risk of anxiety and depression than others:

  • Female teens develop depression twice as often than men.

  • Abused and neglected teens are especially at risk.

  • Adolescents who suffer from chronic illnesses or other physical conditions.

  • Teens with a family history of depression or mental illness. Between 20 to 50 percent of teens suffering from depression have a family member with depression or some other mental disorder.

Anxiety and depression disorders are the most common of all mental illnesses and affect 25 percent of all teens and 30 percent of all teen girls. In fact, many experts are seeing a rise in the level of anxiety and the incidence of anxiety disorders in both adults and teenagers, and there are many possible explanations. Adolescents and teenagers who have good mental health often:

  • Feel happy and positive about themselves

  • Have healthy relationships with family and friends

  • Do physical activity and eat a healthy diet

  • Get involved in activities

  • Have a sense of pride and achievement

  • Can relax and have a regular sleep pattern.

  • Feel like they belong to their communities and school.

Encouraging good teenage mental health Your love and support for your teenager can have a direct and positive impact on your child’s mental health. Here are some ideas to promote your child’s mental health and well- being:

  • Show physical love and affection for your child.

  • Show that you’re interested in what’s happening in your child’s life. Praise his/her good achievements, and value his/her opinions and ideas.

  • Enjoy spending time together one on one with your child but also as a family.

  • Encourage your child to talk about feelings with you. It’s important for your child to feel he/she doesn’t have to go through things on their own and that you can work together to find solutions to problems.

  • Deal with problems as they arise, rather than letting them build up.

  • Talk to family members, friends, other parents or teachers if you have any concerns. If you feel you need more help, speak to your GP or another health professional.

Signs your child might need help with their mental health It’s normal for children and teenagers to occasionally experience low moods, poor motivation and trouble sleeping. But if you notice any of the following signs and the signs go on for more than a few weeks, it’s important to talk with your child. The next step is to get professional help. For children younger than 11 years, mental health warning signs might include:

  • Sadness most of the time

  • A drop in school performance

  • Ongoing worries, fears or anxieties

  • Problems fitting in at school or getting along with other children

  • Aggressive or consistently disobedient behaviour, or repeated temper tantrums

  • Sleep problems, including nightmares.

For children 11 years and older, watch out for your child:

  • Seeming down, feeling things are hopeless, being emotional or lacking motivation

  • Having trouble coping with everyday routine activities

  • Having trouble eating or sleeping

  • Dropping in school performance, or suddenly refusing to go to school or work

  • Avoiding friends or social contact

  • Saying he/she has physical pain such as headache, tummy ache or backache

  • Being aggressive or antisocial such as missing school, getting into trouble with school , fighting or stealing

  • Being very anxious about weight or physical appearance, losing weight or failing to gain weight as he/she grows.

Talking with your child about mental health If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, it is important to have that conversation with them in a supportive and loving manner. This might feel uncomfortable for some parents, you might even be waiting for the problem to go away on its own. But talking to your child about how he/she’s feeling shows that they’re not alone and that you care. Also, your child will need your help to get professional support. Here are some ideas to encourage your child to talk to you about how she/he’s feeling:

  • Say that even adults can have problems they can’t sort out on their own. Point out that it’s easier to get help when you have someone else’s support.

  • Tell your child that it’s not unusual for young people to feel worried, stressed or sad. Also tell him/her that opening up about personal thoughts and feelings is okay and normal.

  • Tell your child that talking about a problem can often help put things into perspective and make feelings clearer. Someone with more experience like an adult, might be able to suggest options your child hasn’t thought of.

  • Suggest some other people your child could talk to if he doesn’t want to talk to you, for example aunts or uncles, close family friends, a trusted sports coach or religious leader, or your GP.

  • Let your child know that talking with a GP or other health professional is confidential. They aren't allowed to legally discuss with anyone else, unless they’re worried about your child’s safety or someone else's safety.

  • Emphasise that your child isn’t alone. You’ll be there whenever he/she’s ready to talk.

If you raise your concerns with your child, in some cases they may refuse any help or say there’s nothing wrong. Many young people won’t seek help themselves, so you might need to say that you’re worried about them and you’ll be trying to get professional from a doctor or counselor. It’s usually a good idea to encourage your child to come with you. If she/he won’t, you might need to go on your own. If you’re not sure what to do, a GP or school counselor is a good place to start.

If you or your child is experiencing any of these issues discussed please book in with your GP by calling: 9456 1811 or booking via our website:

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