Mental Health Checklist for Parents With Teens

Hormonal children are no more stable than a hormonal adult, perhaps worse. They’re on an emotional roller coaster that can change at a moment’s notice. But at what point should watchful parents take action?

Remembering exactly what you felt, how you reacted, whether you were depressed or anxious as a teenager is a tough recall process for most parents. As their children reach adolescence, it’s important to monitor their emotional state to catch potential mental illness disorders before they become extreme.

One thing is clear – teens often don’t understand what they’re feeling, especially if they’re in the throes of major depression or the onset of schizophrenia. Rather than seek professional help, teenagers will seek out peer-enabling vices, like drugs and alcohol. Many will turn to eating disorders as a way to feel in control of something in their lives. Whatever the choice, self-medication leads to a path of further destruction.

Because you know your kid better than anyone else, look for mood swings that are out of character. Are there circumstances that could have triggered the mood swing or did it come completely out of nowhere? Communicating with teens about their feelings is difficult, but an important step in evaluating what could have triggered the outburst of emotion.

Parents should notice an obvious change in physical wellness if mental illness has begun to set in. Does the child lack energy? Are they having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much? Are they complaining of physical pain, such as headaches or backaches? Are they not keeping up with their hygiene? These could all be signs that they’re grappling internally with a mental illness.

Some teenagers will suddenly lose a good percentage of the friends they’ve had over the school year. This could be a simple change of interest among those kids, but many times losing friends means they’ve distanced themselves from behavior they don’t care to be around. Kids with mental illness often have a hard time maintaining and sustaining relationships.

Parents also have the difficult task of deciphering whether their teenager is partying because it’s a way to fit in with the rest of the kids, or if they’re simply using drugs and alcohol to distance themselves from the feelings associated with a mental illness. This is an important phase as many high school students are curious and will experiment with alcohol and drugs. However, it’s the child who truly enjoys the effects, the distance it puts between their sober/depressed waking hours and their high, positive and carefree hours while drinking or using drugs.