We’re in the middle of a teenage mental health crisis. According to The New York Times, in 2019, 13 percent of adolescents reported having a major depressive episode, a 60 percent increase from 2007.1 Emergency room visits by children and adolescents in that same period also rose sharply for anxiety, mood disorders and self-harm.
Why is this happening? And what can you do? If you’re a parent of a teen, read on to find out what recent challenges may be contributing to this crisis, what signs to look out for, and how you can help your teen cope.
Recent Challenges to Teens’ Mental Health
Though the COVID-19 pandemic certainly contributed to the decline in teenage mental health, there were already signs of trouble. The rise of social media is one obvious culprit, paving the way for online bullying and low self-esteem as kids compare themselves to what they see on their screens.2
But teens today are also getting less exercise and less sleep, which can exacerbate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Studies show that fewer than one in four U.S. high school students gets the recommended eight hours of sleep per night.3 And in a study of teens in 10 countries, researchers found only about 13 percent met the WHO’s recommended guidelines of one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise every day.4 Research has shown that young people who don’t exercise at all are twice as likely to have depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders, compared to those who meet exercise guidelines.5
What are the Signs of Depression in Teens?
Being a teenager is full of ups and downs, but there are some signs that may indicate a bigger problem. Though no two people experience depression alike, here are some common symptoms to look out for:
- Expressing feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness
- Low self-esteem
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Getting angry over small matters
- Poor memory and trouble concentrating
- Loss of energy
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Engagement in risky behavior like alcohol or drugs
- Poor school performance
- Social isolation
How to Normalize Conversations Surrounding Mental Health with Your Child
Even if you’re not sure that your teen is dealing with depression, it doesn’t hurt to check in and let them know that you’re there. At first, they may not want to divulge anything, but the more you try, the more chances you’ll have of getting through. Here are some tips to help normalize conversations around mental health:
Our lives are filled with countless distractions, from that endless to-do list to the chime of a social media notification. But making time to show your teen your undivided attention, especially when they reach out first, is crucial if you want them to keep coming to you for guidance.
Listen More than You Talk
You may have the perfect advice for whatever problem they are facing, but try your best to keep it to yourself if they’re not done talking. By fully listening to your teen, you not only show them that what they’re saying is important, but also that you believe they have the tools to overcome any obstacle on their own.
Validate Their Feelings
If your teen is overly anxious about what to wear to a classmate’s party or how they’ll score on Friday’s test, try not to minimize their feelings. This will only make them feel unseen and ashamed of how they feel. Instead, let them know that what they are feeling is appropriate and understandable. This will help them feel accepted and more capable of managing whatever big emotions come their way.
Explore All Available Resources
Mental health awareness means breaking the stigma around mental health by talking about it, learning about it, and educating others about it. There are so many individuals and organizations available to help you and your teen feel empowered. This is especially helpful if your child is reluctant to open up to you. You can still help by leading them in the right direction with the following resources:
- Teenline.org: A teen hotline with on-call teen counselors
- Crisis Text Line: Text “START” to 741741 in USA
- National Eating Disorder Association: Call 1-800-931-2237
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- For LGBTQ Youth: TrevorLifeline at 866-488-7386, TrevorText -Text START to 678-678
- AFSP.org: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- TrevorProject.org: The Trevor Project for LGBT youth
Don’t Expect Your Child to Figure it Out Alone
Ignoring signs of depression won’t help them go away. In many cases, unaddressed depression and anxiety get worse over time. Instead of hoping “this too shall pass,” get in the habit of talking with your teen about what’s going on in their life or look for outside support if your teen refuses to engage.
Knowing When You Need Additional Support
Offering support and making healthy lifestyle changes like prioritizing sleep and cutting down on social media can make a massive difference in your teen’s mental state. However, it may not be enough. If you feel like they need extra support, there are many professionals you can trust: school counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask for your teen’s input about who they’d feel most comfortable talking to. They will probably feel relieved to have a trusted third party to offer support.
In some cases, medication can also be helpful. Brillia is one such medication that offers a gentle and impactful approach to reducing anxiety, stress, irritability, and restlessness without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects in a non-prescription formulation. Brillia’s active ingredient consists of antibodies to the brain-specific S100 protein (S100B), an important regulator of various different intracellular and extracellular brain processes. In a groundbreaking approach, Brillia works by attaching to the S100B protein and regulating its activity without destroying, modifying, or changing its concentration. This efficiently stops the troublesome symptoms from occuring in the body without any off-target effects or changes to blood chemistry.
Many physicians or online diagnosing sites are quick to prescribe medication to struggling teens. While these drugs can be helpful for many, they are also associated with a range of side effects like nausea, dry mouth, appetite changes, and personality changes. There is also the risk of long-term dependency and withdrawal symptoms if you choose to come off the medication. At Brillia, we recognize the value in such medications and always encourage you to consult your physician if you notice worrisome changes in your teen’s behavior. But we also recommend trying a homeopathic medication like Brillia first in tandem with healthy lifestyle habits, leaving prescription medication as a last resort. This helps you to explore all avenues with your teen in a gentle and methodical manner.
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