In 2022, our teens are facing unprecedented amounts of pressure from living in the social media age to the challenge of finding out who they are as a person through this digital lens. And with so much pressure on them to succeed academically – the challenges to their mental health that they face are unlike any other time in modern history.
Teen mental health matters
Your teen’s mental health has a powerful influence on their quality of life, as well as their behavior. It affects how your kid feels, how they see themselves, and how resilient they are when it comes to handling stress. Poor mental health will negatively impact the choices they make.
Think of it this way - if your child had an ongoing physical injury, that they needed help to rehabilitate from, wouldn’t you make sure they received regular support with this? Your child’s mental health is just as important - and you and your family need to seek support if they are struggling with mental health difficulties.
Potential causes: school stressors
How do you help your teens who may be overloaded with academic stress? Kids today face exams, and an onslaught of extracurricular activities to impress on their college applications. Not to mention the fact that your child may be facing bullying and be too ashamed to admit it.
Add to this the fact that children can feel under 24/7 surveillance from their peers at school in a world where teens have cameras in their pockets - and video publishing platforms at their disposal. That is a lot of pressure that perhaps older generations can’t quite imagine living under.
Schools struggling to meet students’ mental health needs
Another area of concern is that schools are struggling to meet their students’ mental health needs. According to the American School Counselor Association, California Schools have 572 students per school counselor. This is more than double the recommended ratio and therefore ranks California among the bottom ten states (1) in the nation.
What this means for school children in Manhattan Beach and its surrounding areas is that there is potentially less school counselor availability and the level of attention that they’re able to give each kid may be impaired.
California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, has recently declared that there’s an urgent need to address student trauma following the impact of the pandemic, commenting: “Our schools are saying that we do not have enough counselors to meet that need” (2).
A 2021 Southern California News Group (SCNG) analysis found that while suicide rates fell in the greater Los Angeles region in 2020, they went up among minors (3). This is a shocking statistic - and one that demonstrates that we should be looking out for signs in teenagers within the family.
How to spot the signs
It’s not easy for a teen to admit they are struggling with their mental health. They do not want to worry about the people around them or be treated differently by their peers.
Adolescents may lie to cover up their challenges out of embarrassment or ashamed. So it may be up to you as a parent or guardian to spot the signs.
Some of the signs to look for include:
Sadness, or a low mood that does not go away.
Unusual fatigue and exhaustion.
Being irritable or grumpy all the time.
Not being interested in things they used to enjoy.
Have trouble sleeping or sleeping more than usual.
Interact less with friends and family.
Interact less with friends and family
Under-eating or overeating in comparison to normal.
Lack of self-esteem or confidence.
Having thoughts about suicide or self-harming.
Talk about feeling guilty or worthless
It’s good to look out for these signs as best you can, but be warned that intruding into your child’s personal effects, such as reading their diary, may push your teen further away and make it harder for them to trust you and open up.
When to seek help
Of course, all teenagers will sometimes feel sad or stressed out, even more so than adults not going through hormonal changes. But if they are going through periods of being detached, depressed, uninterested in anything, or constantly upset, it’s time to get support.
You may think these types of behaviors are common in teens, but if they’re a repeating theme and lasting more than one month, it may well be something more serious. Perhaps your teen is acting out - which is also another sign that they need help.
Turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms
We’ve previously touched upon how teenagers could be using illegal substances to self-medicate for undiagnosed mental health problems. But that’s not all your teen could be doing.
Teens may seek support from other unhealthy and dysfunctional “coping mechanisms” like disordered eating, self-harm, or sex/porn addictions if their mental health difficulties are not addressed.
Fortunately, we can help with problematic teen behavior stemming from various stressors and mental health conditions.
Am I enabling my kids?
As parents, you’re just doing your best. You’d likely never deliberately enable your child. However, well-meaning gestures and actions can actually hinder a child rather than help them.
Some parents, for instance, think that if they let their teens drink alcohol in their own homes, it is safer than them doing so out in the world. But allowing children to do this actually gives them the signal from their caregivers that underage drinking is OK. It may also introduce them to alcohol at a younger age than their peers - and it can actually increase the risk of addiction at a later date.
Even if your home is a no underage drinking zone full stop, there are other ways you could be accidentally enabling their problematic behaviors. Turning a blind eye to poor behavior because they’re having a rough time recently, or because you’ve run out of ideas about how to modify it, for instance, could spell more trouble in the long run.
That is where we come in. We believe you need support as parents too, as our approach is holistic.
How we can help
We work with the adults, children, and teens in your household to help move the family through life transitions, depression/anxiety, and other mental health problems such as trauma and PTSD. As an organization, we want to help kids in South Bay area families like Manhattan Beach improve their social-emotional wellness.
We can work with you and your teenager to help reduce the stigma they feel around mental health issues and help them reach out and talk to someone when they need to.
This won’t just improve their mood. It will have a positive knock-on effect on behavior, and academic results, with the chances of addiction or relapse lowered by tackling this root cause of behavioral problems.
Unlike other rehab outpatient centers in Manhattan Beach CA, we can base ourselves in your home, at the heart of your family life. So get in touch and see what support we can offer you and your teen today.