Parents: Educate Yourself on Mental Health

If you are a parent or caregiver of a teen, you may want to make time for better understanding mental health in teens. This might be especially true if you have a teen who experiences a form of mental illness – ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety. It’s important that teens have all their mental health needs met, and parents who are educated on mental illness are more likely to meet those needs.


Sadly, one research study revealed that less than half of American teens are receiving treatment for their psychological disorders. And, those who do get mental health treatment rarely see a therapist or psychologist. The research gathered information from more than 10,000 teens ages 13 to 17 across the country.  The results showed that the rates of teens receiving treatment varied according to the illness. For instance:


  • Teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder did not get the mental health care they needed 30% of the time.
  • There were much higher rates of teens with phobias or anxiety disorders who did not get the treatment they needed.
  • African American teens were also far less likely to receive psychological treatment than their than Caucasian teens.


One of the reasons why teens don’t get the help they need is because parents themselves don’t see the need for therapy or teen mental health treatment. Of course, this isn’t always the case. But it’s easy for parents to dismiss symptoms as part of the stage of adolescence. For instance, when parents see their teen behaving in odd ways, appearing sullen or depressed, or expressing anxiety, they may ignore these as signs of being a teenager.


This is why it’s so important for parents to educate themselves on teen mental illness. Parents need to be educated about the differences between psychological illness and what’s typical for adolescence. At the same time, they need to learn the some of the major symptoms to look out for. In fact, parents can become somewhat of an expert on the disorder their teen is experiencing (if any) so that they know what to avoid, what to take on, and how to better their teen’s life.


Furthermore, parents might consider the following tips to support themselves and their teen in the journey with mental illness:


Trust Yourself: No one knows your child as well as you do. For that reason, trust your instincts. For instance, if you’re wondering about whether your teen has a mental illness, examine his or her behavior to determine whether you should seek professional help. Sure, there is going to be moodiness with adolescence, but there’s no harm in having your teen seen by a mental health professional. Or at the very least, you can have your teen do a screening or assessment to determine if a diagnosis exists.


Don’t Do It Alone: Mental health professionals know how to respond to psychological illness. You don’t have to manage your teen’s symptoms on your own. Get the help you need from a professional who knows what to do. You can also reach out to other adults you trust to discuss your worries and concerns.


As mentioned above, parents who are educated are those who are better equipped to meet the psychological needs of their teen. Educate yourself and seek professional support when needed.