Adolescent Mental Illness: Four Common Questions Parents Ask

Parents often have questions about their teen’s mental health. And when a teen is diagnosed with an illness, more questions are likely to arise. Below is a list of four questions that parents often ask about adolescent mental illness.

  1. Is it a mental illness or is it adolescence?

One of the biggest challenges parents of teens have is figuring out whether the signs they are seeing in their teen is due to a mental illness or simply the stage of adolescence. However, if a teen is experiencing a mental illness, there are typical signs that parents can look for, such as declining grades, changes in eating or sleep patterns, inability to maintain friendships, or aggressive/risky behavior.

At the same time, it’s important to know that teenagers will typically experience discouragement, feelings of not fitting in, uncertainty about the future, an inability to meet the demands of parents and teachers. But, most teenagers can move through these problems without significant turmoil. However, if you are seeing any of the above signs, then contact a mental health provider for support.

  1. I’m concerned about my teen, but what if my teen isn’t displaying symptoms?

When you ask your teen about whether he or she is feeling depressed, for example, he or she may not be able to identify a painful mental state. Instead, he might express a physical ailment, such as a headache or stomachache. This is also true of sexual or physical abuse that often leads to symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is common for girls to claim having stomachaches or headaches instead of admitting sexual abuse. Similarly, anxious feelings that accompany PTSD might be expressed as stress about school. If you have any concerns about the mental health of your teen, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and seek out professional help.

  1. What if my child refuses adolescent mental illness treatment?

Even if you discover that your teen is experiencing a mental illness, they may refuse medication and attending therapy. As a parent you can continue to play an active role in your teen’s well being. You can do this by continuing to have open, honest, and productive dialogues with your teen. You can also see if your teen would agree to treatment short-term. For instance, you might agree that your teen participates in therapy for a month and then together you can decide whether or not to continue. It’s possible that your teen may begin to experience the benefits of treatment and want to continue.

  1. What if I am a single parent?

Getting the support you need for both you and your teen can be challenging, especially as a single parent. And, if you have other children to tend to, meeting the mental health needs of your teen can be difficult. However, most communities have services for families who have restrictions or limitation on income, support, and resources. Professional mental health services are available that can help single parents meet the mental health needs of their children.


If you continue to be concerned about your teen, it’s always best to seek professional support. Contact a mental health provider if you have additional questions about adolescent mental illness or if you need assistance with meeting the psychological needs of your teen.