It’s true that the mental health care system in America, and likely around the globe needs some attention. The main indicator of its brokenness is the fact that thousands of people in the grip of mental illness do not get the support they need. It’s not the professionals in the field, but the system itself and the lack of emphasis our society places on it.
Teen Mental Health Treatment
This first article of two in this series will provide four of eight tips that can support a family’s struggle with mental illness. According to Lloyd I. Sederer, MD, author of The Family Guide to Mental Health Care, there are up to 80% of Americans who have a mental disorder. But they do not receive the proper diagnosis and treatment. If this were true for the medical world, responsible for addressing physical ailments, there would be a lot more arms raised in frustration and anger.
However, for the most part, the mental health of individuals is not always in the limelight. Although there are many articles in the media about various illnesses such as depression or anxiety, mental health for most people tend to take the back burner.
Despite this, one in four adults in the United States will experience a mental illness of some sort. One in ten will experience mental illness affecting their ability to function at work or at home, having an impact on their families. Furthermore, one in ten children and adolescents will have significant mental health concerns that affect their functioning at school and their ability to learn, as well as their social development. This equates to about 50 million adults and children that suffer a mental illness. The need for teen mental health treatment has increased, and will continue to grow.
Sederer provides 8 suggestions as ways to stay empowered within the mental health system so that your teen’s needs are taken care of. And that the influence on your family is minimal. Four of those eight are below:
Ways to Stay Empowered
Analyze the Behavior: If you’re wondering about whether there is mental illness in your teen, examine his or her behavior to determine whether you should seek professional help. Sure, there is going to be moodiness with adolescence, but there are a few rules of thumb to follow. You can ask yourself if you are seeing a pronounced change in behavior, hygiene, thought patterns, and activity levels. If, for example, you are seeing those changes, then if symptoms last for 2 weeks or longer, it might be time to seek a professional who can assess, diagnose, and treat.
Know It’s Not Your Fault: It’s easy for parents to want to take the blame when their child is not well. It must have been something they did, some wrong decision, some food they fed their child that caused depression or anxiety. It is common for family members to take the blame for the illnesses of their children, siblings, or parents. This cannot be further from the truth. Mental illness, Sederer reminds his readers, is no one’s fault.
Trust Yourself: As you enter into the field of mental health and encounter doctors, therapist, psychiatrists, and even the words in a book or article. You can find plenty of information that will aid you and your teen through the worst of it. However, no one knows your child as well as you do. No one will go to great lengths to ensure your child’s well being as much as you will. For that reason, trust yourself. Trust your instincts.
Don’t Do It Alone: There are many false reasons that might keep you from seeking the professional help you need. You don’t believe in the diagnosis, you don’t have the resources to for support, your family has been through this before, it’s no big deal. Whatever the false thinking, remember that minimizing mental illness is the disease of America, as described above. Furthermore, there are diagnoses that can worsen over time if not treated, such as depression, PTSD, and other anxiety disorders. You can also reach out to other adults you trust to discuss.
Stay tuned for the second article in this two-part series. It will outline the remaining four tips to support your teen and the rest of your family members. When mental illness becomes a part of your family’s life together, it can be frightening at first. However, there are many available sources of support. You can find support in the community, online, and even within your own family.
Sederer, L.I. (2013). The family guide to mental health care. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.