Mental health is important at any age; however, it’s of particular concern for adolescents and teens in the United States.
The adolescent and teenage years are arguably the most important indicators of a healthy and happy adulthood. Emotional, mental and physical development occurs rapidly during these years. This is also the time during which teens are most vulnerable to developing mental illness and behavioral challenges.
Parents and caregivers can best help children through this challenging time if they are prepared with an understanding of specific mental health risks, and strategies recommended by medical and psychological experts.
A Period of Rapid Brain Development
The rapid physical changes adolescents and teenagers experience during this challenging time are surpassed only by their mental and emotional development.
With the onset of physical maturity, hormones begin to course through their bodies, and they may not be emotionally prepared. This leads to a variety of behavioral challenges that have vexed parents for centuries.
Although many parents believe their child’s problems are simply a phase that he or she will outgrow, even the most innocuous of issues can transition to crisis level in a short time.
A Pervasive Problem
Research shows that approximately 20 percent ― 1 in 5! ― adolescents and teens currently suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder. In fact, most mental health problems present during this vulnerable stage of life.
Common challenges that emerge during these formative years include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, social development disorder and eating disorders, among many others.
Suicide is of particular risk for those who suffer from emotional disorders. Between 500,000 and 1 million adolescents and teenagers attempt suicide each year in the United States. In fact, suicide is the third most common cause of death for those ages 15 to 19.
The Importance of Seeking Professional Help
Left untreated, teen mental illness can have dire consequences. Unfortunately, many kids never get the help they need.
Approximately 70 percent of adolescents with mental or emotional challenges never get professionaltreatment. Many of these kids get caught in the legal system, occasionally landing in jail. Of those teens in the juvenile justice system, approximately 70 percent suffer from mental disorders.
Even if your child avoids incarceration, her emotional disorders could lead to diminished school performance (she may even drop out), substance abuse and addiction, risk-taking behaviors and dysfunctional social relationships.
How to Find the Care Your Child Needs
Many teenagers never get treatment for their disorders simply because parents or caregivers aren’t sure where to turn.
Counselors, psychiatrists and child psychologists can provide intervention and valuabletreatment. Unfortunately, this approach does not work for many families combating teenage mental illness or behavioral problems.
Adolescents and teens are historically uncomfortable with and unwilling to open up in a one-on-one therapeutic environment. This occurs due to a lack of trust of adults, combined with their belief that their problems won’t be understood or will be minimized or dismissed.
What Works Best
Kids in this age group tend to fare much better in group settings and residential treatment, especially when more appropriate therapies are used. Experiential therapy has been proven especially effective, thanks to its immersive approach.
Equine therapy, art therapy and related treatment protocols allow teens to open up to the possibility of healing, and to master important strategies for overcoming their challenges.
If your child is struggling with emotional or behavioral challenges, don’t delay seeking professional help. Talk to a professional counselor in your area, or locate qualified residentialtreatment for troubled teens to discuss your child’s mental health.