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3 Parenting Missteps That May Be Affecting Your Teen’s Mental Health

Written by: Dr. Charryse Johnson, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

According to a recent study by the CDC, adolescent girls reported a significant increase in their rates of sadness, suicidal thoughts, and hopelessness. Nearly 3 in 5 U.S. teen girls express persistent sadness, the highest level reported over the past ten years. This reality is also being echoed by parents who report escalating occurrences of arguments with their children.

Preliminary research has shown several factors that are contributing to the decline in mental health among teen girls:

  • Prolonged periods of isolation followed by

  • Loss of safety and uncertainty

  • Lack of purpose and belonging

  • Undisclosed or untreated experiences of violence

These factors are only a small part of the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey results, a nationally representative study conducted every two years. As a parent, it can be helpful to have general knowledge regarding mental health in teens. It can be a costly oversight to believe your teen's mental health can't reach this point. Know the latest statistics and have a support plan to address your teen's needs.


Additional findings:

  • Nearly 1 in 3 girls surveyed (30 percent) seriously considered attempting suicide — up almost 60 percent from a decade ago.

  • Nearly 1 in 5 girls (18 percent) experienced sexual violence in the past year — up 20 percent since 2017 when CDC started monitoring the issue.

  • More than 1 in 10 girls (14 percent) had ever been forced to have sex — up 27 percent since 2019, and the first increase since CDC began monitoring the issue.

  • More than half (52 percent) of LGBQ+ students had recently experienced poor mental health, and more than 1 in 5 (22 percent) attempted suicide in the past year.

  • Findings by race and ethnicity also show high and worsening levels of persistent sadness or hopelessness across all racial and ethnic groups.

  • Reported suicide attempts increased among both Black and white teens.

Regardless of your knowledge as a parent, supporting your teen’s mental health will be heavily influenced by your parenting style, temperament toward’s addressing difficult situations, and your personal beliefs toward mental health. Parents can be an unintentional barrier to access for teens who are clearly in need of support. Here are three common ways you may be affecting your teen’s mental health:


Minimizing your teen’s emotional experiences


Many parents expect their teens to display a level of resilience similar to their own. As a result, a teen’s disclosure can be minimized and overlooked as a significant stressor. Statements such as “you will be fine” or “just don’t worry about it” can be perceived as invalidating and dismissive. Over time, this may cause teens to limit sharing and feel unheard. Responses such as “I am sorry this happened to you” and “Is there anything I can do to help” keep the conversation open and demonstrate empathetic listening.


Delaying mental health support until the point of crisis


At the onset of care, a healthcare provider will gather information regarding the length of time a teen has been struggling. Approximately 85% of parents report signs and symptoms that have been present for more than a year. Addressing mental health symptoms when they first become known increases the odds of favorable long-term outcomes. When you wait until the point of crisis, the complexity of your teen’s mental health can place them at a level of risk that could have been avoided. Early intervention allows mental health providers to establish rapport with your teen, address their needs, and become a trusted resource for any future problems.


Prioritizing school, sports, and activities over consistent care


When a teen needs continuity of care, it may include changes to their schedule and participation in school and extracurricular activities. Disrupting a teen's daily routine is a last resort but sometimes necessary. However, the thought of your child’s absence being noticed can create a sense of fear and even avoidance. If you are delaying care until the "season is over" or waiting for a time when your schedule is "less busy," you could place your teen in significant distress. Most teens desire to please their parents and will not disclose or even be able to articulate the difference between what they are showing the world and what they are feeling inside. Consider taking your child for a mental health assessment and trusting the care recommendations of your healthcare provider.


If you and your teen are currently in crisis, emergency help is available. Below is a small list of resources to help guide your support search. The first three resources are crisis hotlines that provide around-the-clock support and may refer you to a local mental health specialist. Also listed are three therapist directories to help your search for long-term care. Therapist directories are a helpful way to find a therapist and filter for areas such as symptoms, location, and insurance. Before you begin searching, consider these questions:

  • Is your teen in need of a healthcare provider who can offer therapy, medication, or both?

  • Does your family have health insurance, or will you need resources that can work with your income?

To create a comprehensive family mental health list, add any local hospitals or treatment centers that provide care to teens.


The National Suicide & Crisis Prevention Lifeline: Text or call 988


24/7 access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing mental health-related distress


The TrevorLifeline: 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678


Provides confidential support with a Trevor counselor for LGBTQ youth in crisis, 24 hours, seven days a week.


Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 1-800-662-4357

SAMHSA's National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and substance use disorders.


Filter by insurance and specialty to find therapists who provide free introductory calls and have open availability to care for new clients.


This site can be used to find everything from therapy for adolescents and teens to low-cost or non-profit services.


Online search engine to find psychotherapists, psychiatrists, treatment centers, and support groups.


Use this directory to find therapists who offer in-person and virtual sessions between $40-$70


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Dr. Charryse Johnson, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Charryse Johnson is an author, speaker, and mental health consultant whose work focuses on the intersection of integrative wellness, neuroscience, and mental health. She is the founder of Jade Integrative Counseling and Wellness, an integrative therapy practice where personal values, the search for meaning, and the power of choice are the central focus. Dr.Johnson works with clients and organizations across the nation and has an extensive background and training in education, crisis and trauma, neuroscience, and identity development.

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