04-08 Understanding mental health in teens

Posted in Mental Health Treatment, Mental Illness, Treatment

Understanding mental health in teens

A research study done by Duke University surveyed 10,000 teenagers and found that over half of adolescents with mental illnesses received no mental health treatment. Unfortunately, half of all mental disorders begin by the age of 14 and, despite effective treatments, there are often long periods of time between when the disorder is diagnosed and when the person actually seeks mental health treatment.

Four million adolescents and children suffer from serious mental disorders. Children and adolescents who suffer from mental illnesses may feel alone and many misunderstood. Untreated mental health disorders can be disastrous, potentially leading to incarceration, homelessness, suicide and extreme acts of violence.

The shootings in Virginia Tech, Connecticut and Colorado all brought the subject of untreated mental health conditions into the spotlight. All three incidents were linked to cases in which mental health issues were initially noticed but sufficient action was not taken. This has lead to criticism and ridicule of the American mental health care system and has spearheaded numerous movements to increase mental health awareness and reform.

While these examples are extreme cases of untreated mental health disorders in young adults, they point out the possible scenarios that can result due to untreated mental health problems. As individuals age, these mental health disorders can become more noticeable. At times the symptoms of mental illness grow so out of control they need professional treatment. Unfortunately, teenagers can be more resistant toward authority in general as well as less likely to ask for help. This is why it is very important for the families of teens displaying signs of mental illness to take action if they notice abnormal or disturbing behavior.

Warning signs that indicate a teen could be suffering from a mental illness include:

  • Mood changes – The teen demonstrates severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships with friends and family. Teen can present extreme bouts of sadness and hopelessness that last longer than two weeks
  • Drastic behavior changes – Those close to the teen will see severe changes in behavior. This includes dangerous or violent behavior such as frequent fighting and expressing the need to hurt others
  • Physical harm – Showing signs of self-mutilation such as cutting or burning
  • Substance abuse – Many who suffer from mental illnesses drink and do drugs heavily to cope with their feelings
  • Intense or irrational feelings – The teen might express feelings of extreme panic or overwhelming fear for seemingly no reason. Irrational feelings can also include paranoia or excessive anxiety

It is very important when observing a teen’s behavior to be aware of the difference between signs of dysfunctional mental health and typical adolescent behavior. All children can show signs of mood changes, defiance and irrational behavior, but when these behaviors appear to be out of control and consistently occurring, it is important to have them addressed as soon as possible.

The stigma towards mental health disorders keeps many from getting help and can lead many into denial of their condition. It is important when approaching a teen about seeking treatment that loved ones insist they are are coming from a place of love and concern. Children and teenagers are very impressionable and it is imperative that friends and family make a concerted effort to treat potentially harmful mental health conditions.

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health and are seeking mental health treatment, please contact the Depression Treatment Centers of California at 855-678-0400.


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