In America, one in six young people aged 6 to 17 experience a mental health issue every year. Mental health is vital to everyone’s well-being and, as a parent or concerned adult, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs that an adolescent needs mental health therapy. Keep in mind that no one sign points to mental health issues. However, if you notice any of these, you should take note and investigate further.
Here’s what you need to know about adolescent mental health signs.
Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Watch for signs that your adolescent is abusing drugs or alcohol. If he or she misses curfew and comes home intoxicated or you find evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia in his or her backpack, clothing, or room, it’s time to sit down and discuss what’s going on. Abusing drugs and alcohol can be a way for an adolescent to escape reality when he or she is having a difficult time coping.
Changes in Eating or Sleeping Habits
If there’s no obvious reason for ongoing changes in an adolescent’s eating or sleeping habits, it could be due to a mental health issue, such as depression. Watch for indicators, such as excessive sleeping and a marked decrease in appetite.
Skipping School or Making Failing Grades
While skipping school may be due to peer pressure, it also can be a sign of emotional issues. If your child is skipping school, sit down with him and her and ask why. If your child is making failing grades in school, sit down and discuss why. It may be that your child doesn’t understand the subject well or it could be a sign of depression.
Displaying a Defiant Attitude Toward Authority
Ongoing defiance with no clear triggers is a sign for concern. The defiance can be directed at people such as you, a school official, or a law enforcement officer. Adolescents can have mental health disorders, such as oppositional defiant disorder or ODD which need to be addressed by a mental health professional.
Abnormal Fear of Weight Gain
An adolescent should not be abnormally fearful of weight gain to the point that he or she refuses to eat or engages in bulimic behaviors. If you see these behaviors in your child, it’s time to get mental health counseling.
Chronic Negative Mood
Although it is normal for everyone to be negative occasionally, it’s not normal for a child to be in a negative state of mind over weeks and months. Sit down with your child and visit with him or her about how he or she is feeling and see if you can make a difference.
Regularly Occurring Angry Outbursts
Just like when an adolescent is overly defiant for no clear reason, an adolescent who has regularly occurring angry outbursts also should raise an alarm.
Personality Changes, Behavior Changes or Mood Swings
Any other abnormal personality or behavior changes or mood swings should also be noted and addressed. Any of these can signal a change in an adolescent’s mental health.
Ongoing Sadness and Hopelessness
When an adolescent is experiencing ongoing sadness and hopelessness that lasts for more than two weeks, it’s time to address the issue. When these types of feelings persist over time, it could be a sign of depression.
Self-harming is indicative of some type of mental distress. It can be in the form of cutting, scratching, burning, hitting one’s head, or piercing the skin with sharp objects. If an adolescent is engaging in any of these types of self-harming behavior, it’s time to seek professional help.
Withdrawal from Family and Normal Activities
If an adolescent withdraws from family and normal activities and the behavior occurs more than once, it can be considered abnormal and you should investigate further. The adolescent is avoiding close contact with people who know him or her the best, which should raise an alarm.
Trouble Coping With Daily Issues
Trouble coping with daily issues, such as getting up and going to school, attending extracurricular activities, or accompanying a parent on errands can signal that an adolescent may be experiencing mental health issues.
It’s normal for an adolescent to feel anxious about certain situations or events, but if your child’s anxiety becomes excessive to the point that it’s interfering with his or her ability to function from day to day, it’s time to seek professional help.