Mental health can be incredibly complex, so it’s understandable that you might not know where to start when your teen is in crisis. You want to help them, but what do you do? Although every situation is different and each person reacts differently to their mental illness, there are some common things that parents can do to support their teens through a mental health crisis. Here are some tips:
Take care of yourself
If you’re the parent of a teen who’s dealing with mental illness, it’s important that you take care of yourself. Your child needs your support and guidance, but in order to provide it successfully, you need to be taking care of your own mental health as well. This means evaluating options for individual therapy and family counselling to ensure that you and your teen are getting the appropriate mental health care. Taking care of yourself will give you more energy so that you can be there for your child when he or she needs you most.
Did you know that bipolar disorder in teenagers looks a little different than it does in adults? It’s important to recognize that because adolescents are not fully grown yet, that mental health issues may present differently than you’d expect. While bipolar teens may still experience extreme highs and lows, many parents may wrongly think that it’s just part of being a hormonal teen. But in some cases, these symptoms indicate a potential mental health condition.
Mental health refers to a person’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Mental health conditions are common but often misunderstood. Mental health conditions can be caused by many things such as stressful events, genetics, physical illness or injury, or drug or alcohol use. Take time to learn about all these things or take mental health courses if you have a teen experiencing a mental health crisis.
Seek professional help
While you can educate yourself on mental health issues and provide some support to them, sometimes getting an outside to help can be very beneficial to a struggling teen. You may be the only person your teen trusts, but you aren’t the only one who can help them through this crisis. Encourage them to get an evaluation from a mental health professional, even if it’s just for a few sessions. A therapist will be able to do more than you ever could on your own; they’ll be able to assess what’s going on with your child and offer guidance and support based on their expertise in dealing with similar situations. They can also provide tools that will make life easier for both of you during this tough time.
Be open to their ideas on treatment
Allow your teen to consider all their treatment options. Some teens do not feel comfortable with medications. Listen to their concerns and ask your health professional for alternatives including cognitive behavioural therapy if it could offer some benefit. Listen to their needs and concerns and be patient while they work through them.
Be prepared for setbacks
It’s important to be patient and understanding and it’s also important that you help your teen recognize that setbacks are normal. They don’t mean there’s no hope or that they have to give up on their goals. But setbacks can slow progress toward goals and can feel overwhelming at times. Be there when setbacks happen to encourage your teen that you are there for them. It can be helpful for teens with mental health issues to think of recovery as a learning process. Teens who are dealing with mental health issues often experience setbacks as part of the process of getting better. When those setbacks occur, try not to make them feel worse by comparing what happened previously with what’s happening now or by criticizing their efforts at change.
Don’t give them negative messages about mental illness
Don’t tell your child that they are going to be like this forever and will never get better or that their life is over. This can make them feel hopeless, depressed, and isolated from their friends and family. Don’t tell them that it is their fault or something they made up in their head. This can cause shame, guilt, anxiety, anger, and confusion in your teen. No matter why they are experiencing a mental health crisis let them know that you are there for them, you are willing to get them help, and you will be there as they learn to live with a diagnosis. Recognize the signs of a crisis and seek help immediately.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.