This series is a means of support for families and parents whose teens might have a mental illness. It’s frightening when you begin to notice signs of schizophrenia (late adolescence is the typical age of onset for this disorder) or symptoms of depression or anxiety. Out of confusion or shock, as a parent, you might feel a whole host of emotions. Many parents tend to take the blame for their child’s mental illness. However, as you read in the first four tips of the first article – know that it’s not your fault.
As a reminder, the eight suggestions provided in this series are those that Dr. Lloyd Sederer provided in his book, The Family Guide to Mental Health Care. Although it’s easy to get lost, to feel disempowered, to lose your cool, to minimize the illness, or react in other ways, the suggestions provided here are meant to promote the well being of your teen.
The four suggestions below are the last of eight. To see the first four, look for the first part of this article here.
Teen Mental Health Treatment
Seek Help as Soon as Possible:
Half of those who develop teen mental health illnesses show their signs as early as 14 years old. And, 75% of those who experience mental illnesses experience their symptoms by the time they are 24. There are early signs that indicate whether a mental illness is in its development. For example, your teen might be “in his own world” or “acting a little crazy” or “acting out” or “living recklessly”. Although it’s easy to mention these descriptions casually in conversation, they can in fact point to a disorder. It doesn’t hurt to have your child assessed. Even if you discover that there is no cause for diagnosis, at least you’ve covered your bases. Furthermore, untreated mental illness can be toxic! It’s better to get it checked out.
Don’t Get Into Fights:
Many teens might resist your suggestion to see a mental health professional. He or she might resist so intensely that fights break out between the two of you. Certainly, as you can guess, the more that you push your child, the more he or she will push back. Your child is after all a teenager. However, one thing you can do is to have a conversation in which the two of you have a balanced conversation. You’re listening to your child’s fears, arguments, and concerns with deep understanding. You’re putting yourself in his or her shoes. Doing so, can facilitate mutual respect, honesty, and possibly your child opening up to your wishes. (See the articles titled What to do When Teens Resist Treatment and Supporting your Teen with Medication Treatment).
Learn How to Make the Mental Health System Work For You:
The beginning of the first part of this series mentioned the way that the mental health system in America is broken. There is a lot to repair. According to Sederer, who describes mental healthcare in America as “a mess”, clients are often either under-diagnosed or over-diagnosed rather than being accurately assessed, diagnosed, and treated. Sederer suggests becoming somewhat of an expert on the disorder your teen experiences so that you’ll know what to avoid, what to take on, and what to do to better your teen’s life. Although the system is broken, it doesn’t mean your child needs to go without proper care. Make it work for you and your family.
Don’t Give Up:
You may need to make patience a friend of yours. As you and your teen progress through the stages of recognition, assessment, diagnoses, treatment, and recovery, there will likely be many challenges and unknowns to face. In the course of it all, you might feel like you want to throw your responsibility out the window, you might hand over your instincts and knowledge to a professional whom you trust only to be disappointed. Whatever the challenge, don’t give up on your family member. Although the system needs some fixing and it might get in the way of your ability to manage the mental illness, hang in there. Your teen’s well being is much too important.
The suggestions in this series are meant to help you navigate the experience of your teen mental health treatment. As described earlier, when you first see signs of a potential illness, the experience can be a frightening and confusing one. Hopefully, the above suggestions and those provided in part one of this series are useful and helpful.
Sederer, L.I. (2013). The family guide to mental health care. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.