By: Susan Michnay, LCSW
The importance of family
Many teenagers will struggle with depression, anxiety, substance use and other mental health difficulties as they navigate the transition from child to adult.
Teens often experience a high level of academic, social and environmental stress in their day to day lives. Paired with their still developing brains, teens often lack the skills and insights to know how to handle this stress in healthy ways.
Family involvement and mental health treatment
The involvement of family in the treatment of adolescents is vital to their success. Our adolescent IOP program offers twice monthly parent groups to educate caregivers in learning ways to support and guide their teenager through their mental health journey.
Valle VistaHealth System has also begun collaborating with local schools to provide parent education groups onsite at several locations. We are excited for this opportunity to connect with our community and provide additional resources to families.
Answering your question on teens and mental health
If you are a parent or guardian who is working to support a child that is experiencing emotional and/or behavioral issues, this can be a challenging and worrisome experience. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world and knowing what resources are available as well as how to help your child learn to manage their mood can be overwhelming.
Here are few worries we often hear from parents and some feedback that might help.
Why is my child struggling so much?
Ultimately growing up is a hard process due to a variety of physical and emotional changes. Teenagers also encounter multiple stressors including school, not wanting to disappoint their family, worries about the future, and social connection. Sometimes other factors contribute including the loss of a loved one, parent divorce, health concerns, experiencing or witnessing abuse, bullying, online influences, relationship breakup, transition to a new school, etc.
It is important for your child to understand that they are not “weak,” “stupid,” or “a disappointment” but that their thoughts, feelings, and experiences are valid. Most importantly they must know they are not alone and that it can and will get better!
Why won’t my child talk to me, even when I try to “be there” for them?
Adolescence is a time where we start to become more of an individual, separate from our families. This is an important part of developing into an adult. Unfortunately many of us go to the extreme and completely reject our parents or families as we try to figure out “who am I?” Your child may also avoid sharing with you because they fear disappointing you or causing you emotional pain.
The involvement of outside supports such as an extended family member, school counselor, spiritual leader, coach or other healthy adult is a helpful way for your child to find additional support. Connecting your child with a licensed therapist who can work to break down barriers and teach healthy communication skills can also be beneficial in increasing parent/child relationships.
How do I keep my child safe?
If your child is struggling with suicidal thoughts and/or self-harming behaviors (cutting, scratching, burning, punching self, etc.) and you have not already done so, now is the time to reach out for professional support and guidance. A therapist can help you develop a plan specific to your child’s needs. Options often include increased supervision, and securing any medications, weapons, kitchen knives, razors and any other item with which your child may be harming themselves.
Although a common emotional reaction may be one of anger or hurt, it is important for your child to learn that they can rely on you to “talk it out” or help find healthy ways to manage strong urges and thoughts. If they fear your response, they will continue to hide their struggle and engage in harmful behaviors.
Taking care of yourself is important!
While your child may require increased focus and care, you “can’t pour from an empty cup.” The better you take care of your own physical and mental health, the more emotional energy you will have to care for others.
Your child’s mental health issues may happen to trigger your own struggles or unresolved hurts. It can be helpful to seek out your own therapist to help address current and past stressors you may be facing.
We’re here to help
If your child is struggling with managing their mood (i.e. self-harm, suicidal thoughts, increased sadness, increased anxiety, decreased grooming, hopelessness, drug or alcohol use, acting out, excessive sleeping or insomnia, isolative behavior, stop doing things they enjoy, increased or decreased eating, mood swings, irritability, decreased school performance, etc.) please seek out help. Valle Vista Health System offers teens the following services:
- Acute Psychiatric Inpatient Program
- Adolescent Individualized Intensive Outpatient Therapy
- Girls Residential Treatment Program
Valle Vista Health System, located roughly 15 miles south of downtown Indianapolis, Indiana, offers no-cost assessments 24 hours a day, 365 days a year that will assist you in finding the resources your child may need. We can also be reached online.
Susan Michnay, LCSW, is an Outpatient Clinical Supervisor-Adolescent Services at Valle Vista.