It’s easy to focus on the physical health of someone over their psychological health. In fact, it’s so easy because that’s precisely what our entire society does. People tend to give their attention to what they can see and measure. But what is not seen, such as the health of the mind, is often dismissed. Furthermore, it’s common for people to judge and ignore what they do not understand. And the mind, along with its many illnesses, continues to be a puzzle for many people.
This might be true for parents of teens. Although adolescence is a time for incredible growth, it’s also a time for incredible vulnerability. A teen’s brain is growing in immense ways. However, that growth also leaves them vulnerable to mental illness. For instance, when a teen does not get the validation that he or she needs from teachers, friends, and loved ones, it’s easy for him or her to develop low self confidence, low self-worth, and thoughts of self-rejection. It’s easy for a teen to shut down socially if he or she is not feeling confident and self-assured. This experience could contribute to depression, which is a growing psychological illness around the world for both teens and adults.
Teens are growing in many areas of their life – physically, emotionally, psychologically, and socially. A teen is growing into the person he or she may become. Just important as a teen’s physical well being and growth, a vital part of adolescence is a teen’s discovering of his or her identity. For a teen, this might mean discovering who one is outside of the family. For instance, if everyone in the family is a doctor and your teen wants to be an artist, this developing part of a teen’s self needs to be encouraged. An unfortunate example of this is highlighted in the movie, Dead Poets’ Society. This is a movie about a group of boys at a private school who face enormous pressures from their parents and from the prestigious school they’re attending. One young boy, Neil, was uncovering his love of acting and he was thrilled at an opportunity to play a role in the school theater. However, his father refused to let his son act and instructed Neil that he was sending him to a military school so that he could later go to Harvard and become a lawyer. Sadly, Neil did not have the courage to face his father about his love for acting and instead committed suicide.
This might be an extreme example. However, it proves the point that a teen’s psychological is incredibly important. In fact, it is more important at this stage in life. Although one’s psychological health is not visible, there are markers that ill psychological health may be present. For teens, these may include a drop in grades, substance use, isolation, a sudden change in friends/peers, and/or talk about struggle or conflicts.
If you are a parent of a teen, it’s always best to take your teen to a mental health provider when you have concerns about his or her psychological well being.