Making Sure Your Child is Mentally Healthy

DepressionIf you are a parent, your child’s physical health is probably a primary concern. From minor colds and viruses to chronic disease, we parents seem to always be on the lookout for signs of physical distress in our children. However, many of us are so focused on physical health, we often neglect the signs of mental or emotional problems. In adolescence, especially, many children experience the symptoms of depression, anxiety and other types of mental illness, each of which can be just as debilitating as physical illness. Keep reading for more on mental illness in teens and adolescents, including information on what you, as a parent, can do to help.


Signs of Mental Illness in Adolescence

Due to factors like fluctuating hormones, peer pressure and issues at school and home, countless adolescents suffer the effects of mental and emotional distress. And while symptoms can vary according to the child and the disorder, children suffering from mental illness typically display signs like the following:

  • Mood swings.
  • Aggressive or violent behaviors.
  • Social isolation.
  • A loss of interest in activities/relationships your child once found enjoyable.
  • Periods of lethargy or inactivity, followed by manic behaviors.
  • Problems with friends.
  • Problems at school.
  • Risky or self-destructive behaviors.
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide.

Because many of the signs of adolescent mental illness are similar to the symptoms of puberty, they often go unnoticed. However, if gone unchecked, illnesses like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder can have disastrous effects on your child, and on your family as a whole.


For example, when left untreated, the symptoms of mental illness can worsen, and the risks associate with suicide and self-harm are significantly increased. Also, the risky behaviors associated with mental illness can put your child at risk for a host of complications, including teen pregnancy, the spread of disease, and addiction to drugs or alcohol. In fact, according to, mental illness and substance abuse are closely linked, as many teens and young adults use drugs and alcohol as a means of “numbing” painful emotions or self-medicating symptoms.


How to deal with it?

Because of the complications associated with psychological illness, seeking prompt, professional care is essential to your child’s health, safety and well-being. However, since antidepressants and other psychiatric medications are associated with harmful side effects, many parents are wary of getting help. Indeed, when used to treat adolescents, certain drugs can increase the risks of self-harm, as well as result in a worsening of symptoms and other frightening complications.


Thankfully, in addition to medication, there are numerous methods designed to address mental illness in teens and young adults. For example, one-on-one psychotherapy, group counseling and family therapy have proven extremely effective in treating psychological and emotional distress. These treatment methods can help teens and young adults build the coping skills necessary to overcoming mental illness and enhancing overall health and quality of life.


Also, it’s important to mention that psychiatric drugs don’t always have ill effects. In fact, when used in conjunction with counseling, antidepressants and other medications can be extremely beneficial in reducing the symptoms of mental illness and helping teens and young adults live healthy, productive lives. However, erring on the side of caution is always recommended, and medications should only be used when other treatment options have been exhausted. Also, monitoring your child’s reactions to prescription medication can help prevent the complications associated with these drugs.


Although mental illness is common among adolescents, the complications can be severe. If your child is displaying the signs of mental or emotional distress, seek immediate treatment, and help lay the foundation for a healthier, happier future for your entire family.

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