When you think about mental health, it may seem like simply an “adult” thing. But the reality is: Mental health issues affect people of all ages.
In fact, the American Psychological Association reports that an estimated 15 million American children and teens could currently be diagnosed with a mental health condition.
That means that as a parent, it’s every bit as important to pay close attention to your teen’s mental health, alongside his or her physical health. Read on to learn more.
How Common Are Mental Health Issues in Teens?
The number of American children affected by a mental health condition is staggeringly large. But it’s important to recognize two key facts along with that statistic—the first is that many children who have these conditions are undiagnosed.
And second, that number only reflects the number of children and teens with a mental health condition. The number would be much larger if it reflected all children who are affected at some time or another by stress or something else impacting mental health.
Just like it has for adults, the number of children and teens experiencing issues with mental health has steadily increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While children are incredibly resilient, mental health is impacted when you’re isolated from friends and extended family, when you can’t attend in-person school, when you miss out on beloved activities like sports, and when you can’t do the things that normally provide you with stress relief and joy.
If you’re wondering whether your teen’s mental health has been negatively impacted, look for these signs:
- Diminished academic performance
- Increased behavioral issues
- Increased hyperactivity and inability to focus
- More frequent nightmares
- Poor grades despite trying hard
- Refusal to go to school or log in for virtual school
- Unrelenting anxiety or worry
If you see any of these signs, particularly over a period of time, talk with your child’s medical provider about what you’re seeing.
Helping Your Teen Protect His or Her Mental Health
Wondering how you can help your teen build strong mental health? It requires many of the same habits that are good for you!
Teens, like their adult counterparts, need to practice healthy lifestyle habits. These habits help the mind and body build up strong defenses against whatever life can throw your way:
- Regular exercise. While experts recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, teens still need 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week.
- Balanced diet. Eating a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables is a key part of well-being. It’s also a good idea to teach your teen now to turn to healthy foods rather than fast or comfort food when stressed.
- Quality sleep. Many of our mental health issues are worsened by a lack of sleep. Make sure your teen prioritizes getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis.
- Stress-relieving activities. This falls under the category of “self-care.” Encourage your child to find activities and hobbies he or she loves, and then do them often!
If you think your teen could use mental health support, start by talking with your primary care provider, who can guide your next steps. Many scheduling options are available so your family can conveniently access care.