What you need to know:
- Communication can be the best defence against suicide in teens struggling with depression, anxiety, or other disorders.
Mental illness is a term that encompasses many different issues, including depression and anxiety.
It can affect anyone, but it's more common in teenagers because of the physical and hormonal changes they experience during puberty.
If not paid attention to, depression can take a toll on your teenager, leading to suicide. Read on to learn how to recognise signs of mental illness early on and take action.
What are the signs?
There are some common warning signs that you can look for in your teenager. Mental illness symptoms include changes in mood, behaviour, or thinking patterns. You may also notice that they are more sensitive to criticism and easily overwhelmed by stress.
It's important to note that many mental illnesses have physical symptoms, too, like headaches or stomach-aches when they feel anxious or stressed, so it can be harder to determine whether your teen is struggling with mental illness.
How to help your teens with their mental health
In an interview, Aunt Truphena (a counselling psychologist who also writes for the Daily Nation) shared the following tips on how to have an open dialogue with your teen:
Be patient and avoid judging
When dealing with a mental-health teen, try your best not to judge them or seem like you're trying too hard for their approval. It may take time and effort on both ends of the spectrum (yours and theirs), but patience will usually pay off through eventual understanding. It is not advisable to force them to change their feelings or thoughts.
Please encourage them to seek help
Encourage them and try to be there for them when it gets tough. Often, teens will not seek professional treatment because this means admitting something about themselves. Instead, make an appointment with your doctor or counsellor so they can figure out what kind of treatments would best suit them.
Allow your teenager to express their concerns without forcing them
It can be challenging to know how best to help a teenager who has a mental illness. Your first instinct may be to swoop in and solve the problem, but it's important not to force anything if your teen is reluctant to share their issues with you or ask for advice. Instead, try let them vent without interruption until they are done talking before offering any input of your own so that they feel comfortable opening up more at another time.
Know your limits and boundaries
Though it may seem like an easy thing, you should know that there are things beyond your expertise, and the best course of action may be to refer them to a professional. Some mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression, can be treated with medication or therapy. Others may need more intensive treatment. Teenagers who have disorders should get help from a professional to get the best possible outcome for their mental health.
It is vital to remain calm when a teenager opens up about their mental health struggles. For example, when someone's suicidal thoughts are first revealed, it can seem like everything has come tumbling out of nowhere without warning. Still, these feelings have been building for some days or weeks beforehand, so what you say next often could make all the difference between life and death - do not overreact.
It is vital that you talk openly with your teenager. Communication can be the best defence against suicide in teens struggling with depression, anxiety, or other disorders. In addition, by being supportive and understanding of what they are going through and setting some boundaries, you can help your teen get the professional care they need.