Mental & Emotional Health Of Adolescents
Adolescence is a bridge between childhood and young adulthood. It refers to the years between 11 and 18. The hallmark of the teen years is change. These can be very busy years full of growth: academically, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and socially.
Adolescent Developmental Milestones Include:
Teens continue to identify their key interests and develop their talents and skills. It is a time of important decision-making regarding family life, career pursuits and social relationships. Growing up in a healthy home environment that is affirming, nurturing, affectionate and openly communicative can provide a strong foundation to developing adolescents.
Behavioral Issues May Arise When Teens are Overwhelmed
Some teens find this period in their lives to be overwhelming with pressures and problems. They may strive to work hard academically, yet deeply fear disappointing their parents. They may unduly worry over college preparations. Other teens may act out their emotions over family crisis (e.g. divorcing parents, seriously ill family members, parental job loss) by becoming involved in criminal behavior.
Many teens may succumb to social pressures to become sexually active, drink alcohol or do drugs. Other adolescents endure bullying at school that may push them to their limit. And sadly, many teens live in homes where domestic violence, sexual abuse, physical abuse and verbal abuse are commonplace.
Let Us Know Your Concerns
Adolescence can be a time when mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, and eating disorders begin to surface. The health care team of Thorrez Medical Practice encourages parents, caregivers and teens to discuss your concerns with us. We can help you identify prevention strategies and healthy coping mechanisms. Referrals to health care providers who specialize in adolescent psychology and psychiatry are also available. Fortunately, many mental health conditions are treatable.
Identifying Teens At Risk
The American Academy of Pediatrics (A.A.P.) states that one in 20 children in America has a significant mental health condition. It is imperative that parents and caregivers learn the signs to look for that indicate a teen may be in trouble and seek assistance from health care professionals.
The AAP Recommends Signs to Watch For in a Teen:
* Abrupt, severe changes in behavior, functioning or emotions.
* Excessive sleeping or major changes in sleep patterns.
* Loss of self-esteem. Expressions of worthlessness/hopelessness.
* Loss of interest and/or abandonment of favorite activities.
* Unexpected or dramatic decline in academic performance.
* Loss of appetite. Continued weight loss. Excessive weight gain.
* Extreme or dramatic shifts in personality or moods.
* Paranoia. Excessive secrecy.
* Excessive isolation. Nonactive in social groups. No interest in friends.
* Self-mutilation or expresses thoughts of hurting self.
* Obsessed with body image concerns.
* Abuse of prescription and/or over-the-counter medications.
* Loss of interest in personal appearance.
* Appears deeply sad, hopeless, anxious, overwhelmed.
* Runs away. Getting into trouble. Impulsive. Aggressive.
* Episodes of severe anger.
High risk teens for committing suicide:* Youth who think they are homosexual or are actively gay/lesbian.
* Male teens with an emotional or behavioral condition.
* Adolescents involved with drug/alcohol abuse.
* Adolescents with easy access to potentially lethal medications.
* Adolescents with a history of attempted suicide.
* Adolescents who lost a friend or relative to suicide.
* Victims of physical and/or sexual abuse.
* Adolescents who talk or write of suicide or death.
According to the A.A.P., suicide is one of the three leading causes of death amongst 13-19 year olds in America. What may seem to others as a small, insignificant event could trigger suicide in someone at risk. Some teens may be good at hiding their depression or desperation. Even small gestures at self-harm (e.g. taking a small amount of drugs) must be given prompt attention and intervention.
Resources about the mental and emotional health of adolescents:
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Handout on Helping Your Child Avoid Being Bullied (AAP)
Handout on Warning Signs of Being Suicidal (AAP)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Phone: 1-800-273-TALK_)
St. Joseph Mercy Health System Outpatient Behavioral Services Program
University of Michigan Psychiatric Emergency Services (24 hour Phone Crisis Line: 734-936-5900) Washtenaw County Health Department - Suicide Prevention Collaborative