When you have a teenager, it can be difficult to always understand what they might be going through or struggling with. They are not always upfront with any problems they might be facing. Mental health and substance abuse problems are common and real problems many teens face.
The good thing, however, is that they are treatable when paired with the right kind of help. Below are some advice and tips to help parents of teenagers get the help they need:
Signs your teen has a mental or substance abuse problem
One of the most important steps in helping your teen with their problems is to identify the signs when it starts. Adolescents with substance or mental health problems will often exhibit some of the following:
- Eating or sleeping habit changes
- Inability to cope with daily activities or problems
- Excessive complaints of sickness or physical ailments
- Prolonged negativity
- Defiance of authority, vandalism, theft or truancy
- Frequent anger outbursts.
- Thoughts or talk about death.
Finding the right kind of help based on type of problem
Once you have noticed some of the signs your teen needs mental or substance abuse help, you need to find the right kind of help to treat it. Treating a substance abuse problem will be very different than treating a mental health issue. In some cases, those two problems go hand in hand. Where you decide to get help for your teenager will depend on the nature and symptoms of their issues.
Your primary care doctor may be able to suggest therapists or give you advice on how to look into adolescent and teen substance abuse treatment options. You may also look online or by speaking with your insurance company for a list of providers listed in your plan.
Learn ways to help your teen while they get treatment
It can be difficult to understand the best way to help your teen while they are getting treatment for mental health issues or drug abuse problems. While you are trying your best to help your teen and support them as a loving parent, follow some of the advice below.
Educate yourself about their issues
The first way to help your teen is to learn more about what they are dealing with. For mental illnesses, you need to research their specific illness to understand more about what they are dealing with, how they are feeling and ways to positively help them. Parents may read free educational programmes from the National Alliance of Mental Illness website. This organisation helps parents of teens facing mental illnesses.
For parents of teens addicted to drugs or alcohol, the great lengths they have gone through to protect them may seem lost at this point. While parents often blame themselves, it is important for parents to never point fingers. Addiction is not always the product of bad behavior or poor decision-making. It can be contributed to factors like home environment, genetic makeup, social influences, and psychological and mental health issues. As a parent, it is best to accept that addiction is not a problem on its own. It is often a symptom of deeper issues that will need to be resolved. This is why getting proper help is essential for recovery.
As a parent, watching your teenager develop mental health or substance abuse problems can be one of the most difficult things to face. The key is to identify the signs early on and get them the right help as soon as possible.
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Peter Wallace has been an advocate for mental health awareness for years. He holds a master’s degree in counselling from the University of Edinburgh.