How to Talk to Your Teen About Mental Health
posted on optum.com
Mental health is an important topic anytime, but 58% of teens say the pandemic has affected their mental health.
For some families, talking about mental health may be an everyday occurrence. For other families, it may be a new topic, and it may feel a little awkward at first. But the more you do it, the more comfortable it will feel — for you and your loved ones.
You don’t have to go it alone. Use these five tips to get started.
Five tips before you talk
If you need help starting the conversation, keep these five tips in mind.
- Remember what being a teen is like
Teenagers are going through a time of change. They may be getting their first job, learning to drive, hanging out with friends more and spending less time with parents.2 That’s all a normal part of development.At the same time, their brain is still developing. The parts that control impulses and help them make decisions aren’t fully formed.3Social media may also have an impact on teens’ lives. It can make them feel anxious about whether others approve of them, overwhelmed by constant notifications and worried that they’re missing out.4
Frequent Instagram use for young women is also correlated with body dissatisfaction as well as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem.5
- Watch for cues
Teens may bring up mental health topics on their own. They might mention what a friend is going through or how they’re feeling themselves. It’s important to listen, so you don’t miss these opportunities.
- Respect differences
There’s a good chance you and the teen or young adult in your life will have different opinions about political, social or other topics. While it may be tough, try to stay calm and respect their different views.This can help you build trust and make them more open to talking with you.2 Instead of lecturing, help your teen plan how to make healthy choices about alcohol and drugs, relationships and other topics they’ll face.2,6
- Learn about mental health
Many people have personal experience with depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. But for some people, these topics are new. If you aren’t familiar with these conditions, educate yourself before you bring them up. Also, know what signs to watch for.Signs that a person may be dealing with a mental health issue and need help include:7• Feeling sad or withdrawn for more than a couple of weeks
• Having severe mood swings
• Worrying a lot
• Getting into fights with others
- Don’t avoid tough topics
If you think someone may be having suicidal thoughts, ask. If the answer is yes, seek professional help including contacting emergency services. Talking about suicide will not cause it.2Also, don’t shy away from bringing up traumatic events that you may have experienced, together or alone. But watch to see what they’re comfortable with.While some young people want to talk, others may not feel comfortable talking about traumatic situations — or at least not right away. Don’t pressure them.8