It can be frightening to think about your child struggling with a mental illness. It can be even more frightening when they confide in you that they’re depressed, anxious, or thinking of hurting themselves. In fact, it can be so frightening, that many parents overlook or dismiss the signals and calls for support out of fear.
The fear of not knowing what to say, what to do, or how to fix it.
I can only imagine the pain it must inflict to know that your child, an extension of yourself whom you love more than anything in the world, is hurting. Unfortunately, the truth is, about 1 in 4 teens suffer from mental illness (1) and suicide has risen to the second leading cause of death among teens (2). Turning a blind eye isn’t going to change these statistics.
Silence, denial, minimization and justification aren’t going to help your child. But facing the struggle head on, and speaking up, CAN help! Learning the signs, equipping yourself with supportive tools and encouraging mental health talk can lower this devastating statistic and save lives.
Mental illness in children/teens can show up in a variety of different ways. Some of the warning signs include:
– Changes in predominate emotions: increase in anger, irritability, jealousy sadness, etc.
– New, recurrent complaints of headaches, stomach aches or muscle pain
– Increased need for reassurance, preoccupation with perfection, or frequent apologizing for trivial things
– Extreme hyperactivity
– Decrease in school performance
– Missing, or asking to miss, more days of school
– Losing friends, or showing loss of interest in hanging out with friends
– Loss of interest in activities they once wanted to participate in
– Changes in appetite or eating behaviors
– Changes in hygiene, appearance or dress
– Increased or decreased desire for sleep and/or having nightmares
– Substance use or abuse
– Destructive behavior: damaging property, hurting animals, stealing, excessive lying, etc.
– Bullying or excessively speaking negatively about others
– Threating to run away or hurt themselves
– Drawings, writings, pictures or social media posts suggesting sadness, low self-esteem or a desire to hurt themselves or others
Personality and behavior changes and “testing the limits” are to be expected as your child ages, so just because your child exhibits one or more of these behaviors doesn’t necessarily mean they’re struggling. However, it can be an early indicator to start talking and keep the possibility of mental illness on your radar.
Stay tuned for my next post on how to prepare yourself to talk to your child if you do suspect, or find out, he or she is struggling!
Sending health and healing your way,