Family And Parenting

Parents Guide to Teenagers and Mental Health

Adolescence is a challenging time in life and often comes with a wide range of emotional shifts and hard to manage experiences.

When considering mental health, more people today recognize the importance of awareness and seeking support and help as needed. For parents of teenagers, the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions are not always discussed. 

Many teens don’t share their concerns with parents, as they may choose to discuss them with friends, peers, or another trusted adult outside of the home. In some cases, parents may dismiss signs of anxiety or depression, for example, because they resemble an awkward or challenging phase, which is also common during teen years. 

However, there are several reasons why teens’ change the way they think, behave and communicate. For some kids, communication comes to a complete stop, or it may change completely.

Common Warning Signs of Depression and Anxiety

Every teen struggles with changes, from physical growth and development to shifts in mood and brain. Adolescence is a challenging time in life and often comes with a wide range of emotional shifts and hard to manage experiences. 

For example, the acceleration of growth and development can easily trigger unpredictable mood swings and nervousness, which is not uncommon during this phase.

What are the common signs that indicate a possible mental health crisis in teens? While some changes are regular and expected to happen, the following signs are essential to observe and talk about them with your teen:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and lack of interest in hobbies they used to enjoy regularly.
  • Grades drop, homework assignments are skipped or left unfinished.
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or processing and remembering information.
  • Feelings of anxiousness, sadness, or a sense of emptiness.
  • Withdrawing from friends and family.
  • Changes in eating habits, such as overeating, or not much at all.

On a more serious note, some teens may retreat so severely that they barely speak or communicate and may visually feel despair. If you notice any of the above signs or any significant changes in your teen, it’s best to contact a crisis line or medical professional for urgent care.

Supporting Your Teen

Communicating regularly with your teen is one of the best ways to identify potential changes in their behavior or take notice of any concerns. Assure them that they can always approach you and share any concerns. Listening without judgment is critical, because as many parents know, teens are not eager to share their feelings or concerns if they’re chastised or criticized for them.

Treatment Options

Many parents may assume there’s nothing to worry about, or they may self-diagnose their teen as having anxiety, depression, or obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, if there is a significant concern for your teen’s mental health, it’s best to contact a psychotherapist, often through a family doctor’s referral.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy is a treatment that involves talking to a licensed mental health professional, usually regularly for one weekly, on average. During each session, the therapist helps your teen identify thoughts and emotions that they have difficulty managing. 

They may also have behaviors or changes to their thought patterns and activities. Each one-on-one meeting offers guidance and support to manage feelings and behaviors to improve mental well-being.

Medication Treatment

Medication may be an option in some cases, usually with talk therapy. These may include antidepressants and other medications that provide relief. If there are concerns about substance use, talk to your doctor about addiction treatment programs, so your teen can receive peer-related support, too, in addition to medical care.

Physical and Mental Health Management

Never ignore signs of mental health concerns. Instead, it’s essential to talk to your teen first, explore options for treatment and support together, and work towards a solution. In addition, some excellent preventative methods will help your teen achieve a greater sense of balance over their mental and physical health:

  • Sleep well and keep a regular schedule to avoid a lack of rest.
  • Stay active and find exercise activities and sports that are enjoyable.
  • Communicate as much as possible and keep in contact with friends and family who are supportive.
  • Find resources from schools, community centers, and local support groups.


Mental health is a common challenge that many people regularly face, including teens. Helping your teen through a challenging phase is one of the most important roles as a parent. While it’s not an easy part of growing into adulthood, supporting your teen is a valuable way to give them what they need for success and a healthy, balanced life.


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