Rates of mental illness are rising across Canada, but particularly among our teens. Teenagers often send out mental health red flags when they are suffering, and parents should be fully aware of what these symptoms are. We all have an obligation to help our teens through these tough moments and make sure they know that they don’t have to live like this.
So, what are some red flags? Here’s a look at more specific information.
Mental Health Red Flags: Behavioural Changes
These are often some of the most obvious signs of mental illness, but they can come in a variety of forms. The important thing here is to notice if a baseline of behaviour changes and just how noticeable that change is.
On one hand, teens may begin lashing out more often, showing an increase in anger or aggression. They may begin to engage in self-injurious behaviour. They may abuse substances with more frequency in an effort to seek mental escape or numb their own pain. They may show an increase or decrease in their sleep. They may withdraw from friends or previously enjoyable activities. You may notice a significant drop in functioning when it comes to school, work or other activities that they had always enjoyed. You may also notice that they begin to appear to have trouble thinking or concentrating.
Furthermore, remember, it may not just be you who notices this behaviour. Unfortunately, far too many teens are good at hiding the worst of their symptoms. This is for many reasons: They may be afraid of how you will react, or they may not be ready to share their experiences with you yet. If you suspect that your child is experiencing some sort of mental illness, check with other people that you know and trust, like their teachers or religious leaders. Ask if they have noticed any behavioural changes, and if they have, seek help.
These changes can sometimes be obvious, but sometimes they can be more subtle. If your teen seems depressed — to the point that it significantly impacts his or her mood — your teen may need counselling.
Mood changes may involve some pretty clear signs, like seeming sadder, crying more often or appearing depressed or lethargic. But it may also involve other reasons that are not due to mental illness, such as aggression or violence.
Appetite changes are often a telltale sign of mood problems. You may notice that your teen has experienced significant weight loss or weight gain. You may also notice an obvious change in how much he or she eats.
The Biggest of Mental Health Red Flags: Suicidal Ideation
All of these signs are dangerous and indicate your teen is in pain and in trouble. However, there are times where you must simply stop everything and seek help immediately: If your teen shows signs of suicidal ideation, get help. Suicidal ideation means teens may begin expressing a desire to hurt or kill themselves, fantasizing about dying, giving away possessions, or making comments like, “The world would be better off without me.”
If this is the case, there is obviously a very serious problem, and you should attempt to get your teen mental health help as quickly as possible. If you believe that someone you love is in immediate danger of attempting suicide, call emergency services right away.
To be sure, a teen who is experiencing one or two of these symptoms may not be suffering from depression. However, if you have any questions, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Your child may be experiencing a moment of crisis, but it doesn’t have to be forever. With help and care, including any number of treatment programs, your teen can lead a good, healthy and happy life. If you need teen mental health treatment, call 855.281.5813. We’re here to help you and your child.