Teenage years can be difficult and are complicated by puberty and questions of identity. We need to make a real attempt to accept and understand the pressures and dilemmas our teens are facing. We need to provide love and support for them when they have challenging times, and assist them to make positive choices.
There are signs and symptoms that show us a young person could be at risk of slipping into depression or otherwise poor mental health:
- loss of interest in activities or socialisation
- change in sleep or eating habits
- lack of enthusiasm and drive
- fatigue / lack of energy
- difficulty concentrating
- thoughts of death or suicide
It is a little bit like taking the wrong turn, the sooner we pull up and correct it, the quicker and easier it will be to get back on track, with less time wasted, less damage done. Early intervention is the key.
Finding a way to start the conversation can be tricky, but it is important to speak up as soon as you can. Trust that you know your teenager and that your instincts are correct. Approach the conversation in a caring and nurturing but age appropriate way. Have an open mind.
There is a chance that you are met with avoidance, denial or even aggression when raising your concerns. Don't let this deter you and if you are met with resistance it can be useful to ask less questions, and make more statements which let the struggling teen know that you support them. Let your teenager know that they should feel safe to discuss anything which could be making them feel pressured or otherwise uncomfortable.
Another great tip is to let your teenager talk, it can be tempting to override them almost immediately with comments like 'oh, don't be silly' or 'I don't think that would happen'. We need to remember that regardless of how we see the seriousness or legitimacy of the issue from our own point of view, it is affecting this person and for them, the pressure is real and we need to accept, respect and authorise those feelings.
Validating your teenagers feelings could be all it takes to stop the downward spiral.
Sometimes all we need is the freedom and authority to feel how we do without criticism or judgement. On other occasions the spiral may have already begun and it will take a lot more to 'get back on track'. Be consistent and persistent with your teen, remind them regularly that you are there for them, and be prepared to try as many methods and strategies as possible to help your teen.
There are some serious potential consequences of not dealing with, and managing poor mental health and depression. We know that young people who lack confidence and self esteem and ultimately suffer poor mental health have a significantly higher risk of:
- social exclusion
- education disadvantage
- substance abuse
- poor or abusive relationships
- poor physical health
- long term economic disadvantage
- self harm
Help is available!
A good first step is your local doctor or GP, more specialised services will probably need a referral anyway, so start here! Be prepared with information about your teen's situation. Think of any triggers for feeling down, and how long signs and symptoms have been shown.
Eagles have two 24 hour contacts who can offer strategies and advice.
Scott Dent 0400 844 493
Sally Wynd 0418 417 124
There is the Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
And in an emergency situation always call 000.