Nationwide, suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Locally, teen suicide has hit all too close to home in recent weeks and years. While the subject of suicide is hard to think about—let alone talk about—it is an important one.
Also important to discuss is how we can help support our local youth and teens. The world has changed, and teens are facing issues that no previous generation has had to face at such a young age.
It’s important to try to understand what our youth are dealing with so we can support them and help them handle any struggles or challenges they might encounter.
This article will highlight some of the major issues teens are facing today and how to support them.
Depression & Anxiety
No more than ever before, teens are struggling with depression and anxiety. Because of rapidly changing hormones it is common for teenagers to have mood swings. While mood swings are normal and should be expected, depression is not normal and should be addressed as soon as possible. Depression is treatable, but it’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible. Signs your teen may be experiencing more than normal teenage angst include:
- Personality changes: sadness, withdrawal, irritability, anxiety, exhaustion, indecision
- Behavior changes: reduced involvement in activities, deterioration of social relationships
- Sleep issues: unable to sleep, sleeping too much, nightmares
- Loss of appetite, weight loss, or overeating
- Erratic behavior, harming self or others
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, do not delay getting help for your teen.
Social Media & Cyber Bullying
Social media can be a great way for teens to connect with one another, but it can quickly become problematic for several reasons. For instance, social media can expose your teen to cyberbullying, negative self-esteem, and so much more.
Social media can have a negative impact on friendships, and can negatively impact teens’ mental health and the way they see themselves and the world.
While there are measures being put into place to reduce the risks kids face online, it’s important for parents to be aware of what teens are being exposed to, and get involved in helping teens learn how to navigate social media in a healthy way. Talk about ways to stay safe online. And most importantly, know what your teen is doing online.
Pressure comes in a number of different forms from academic pressure, performance in extra-curricular activities and also social pressure from friends to drink, do drugs or have sex. Pressure of any kind can cause your teenager to have anxiety and even act out against you, teachers, or friends. Being supportive, rather than putting even more pressure on a teenager, is a good way to remain an ally and support person.
Body Image & Self Esteem
In a society that puts so much value on how a person should look and very little on how they should act or think, most teenagers develop some sort of self-esteem issue. While it may not seem to change much in the moment, assuring your teen that you love them just how they are can help boost their self-esteem.
How to Talk to Your Teen
Bringing up any difficult subjects with your teen can feel uncomfortable. Your teen likely won’t respond well if they feel they are getting a lecture or being asked too many questions. But that doesn’t mean you should shy away from having conversations with your teen about difficult issues and uncomfortable topics.
It’s important to know that even when it seems like they aren’t listening, you are the most influential person in your teen’s life. When addressing a difficult topic, talk in a calm, non-accusatory manner while expressing love and concern. Focus on your concern for your teen’s well-being and health. Make “I” statements to convey you understand the stressors he/she may be experiencing, and reassure your teen that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Here are a few questions to consider to get your teen talking:
- Do you think _____ is a big issue at your school?
- What’s your favorite app?
- Do you think you have enough support at home (or school)? If not, how can we change that?
Listen to what your teen has to say. Try not to judge, but make your expectations and opinions clear as far as what is appropriate and not.
- TherapyWorks—we have therapists readily available Monday through Sunday with convenient morning, evenings and weekend availability.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741. For information about the crisis line, go to crisistextline.org.
Maaliea Wilbur is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Executive Director of TherapyWorks. With 10-plus years of experience, Maaliea’s broad-level expertise allows her to successfully support kids, teens, adults, couples and families. For information visit mytherapyworks.com.