Starting the Mental Health Chat With Your Teen

Published On: December 26, 2023Categories: Teen Mental Health

It’s no secret that mental health conditions affect several teens. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 49.5 percent of teens struggled with a mental health condition at some point in their lives. 

That’s 0.5 percent away from being half of teens. 

Statistics like these reveal how important it is to have discussions about mental health for early prevention and to remember that no one, no matter who they are, is completely immune from experiencing the symptoms of a mental illness.

Why it’s important to talk about mental health with your teen 

In recent years, there has been a huge cultural shift towards mental health-related conversations. Because so many people struggle with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, OCD, ADHD, and others, a greater awareness of the topic is present in addition to an openness for discussion.

This conversation on mental health is beneficial for so many reasons: it not only helps remove the taboo from mental health topics, but it opens the door for younger generations to have discussions early and get any help they need sooner rather than later. 

Most teens are likely familiar with mental health regardless of whether or not they struggle with a mental health condition. Because it’s such a prevalent topic, and because so many teens do struggle, it would not be surprising if your teen was more familiar with mental health than you realized.

Maybe they have a friend who is open about their battle with depression; maybe one of their parents is open about the effects of their anxiety on the household – these situations can help minimize fear of the unknown surrounding mental health. 

It can be a challenge, however, when the mental health concern is with your child – how, in a world that’s seemingly so open about mental health awareness, should you talk with your teen about the concerns you have?

How to talk with your teen about mental health

If you’re noticing warning signs of declining mental health, it might be time to talk with your teen about what’s going on and what needs to be done to get their mental health back to a place of peace. 

But how? 

How do you enter into a conversation with your teen about mental health in a way that is comfortable for both of you, but not so comfortable that you dance around the main issue? 

Hopefully, these tips will help. 

Don’t feel pressure to dive straight into mental health talk

If you know your teen hasn’t been acting themself lately, they probably are processing a lot; they may feel overwhelmed if you go headfirst into a talk about mental health. Instead, start the conversation by pointing out what you’ve noticed – “Hey, it seems like you haven’t been yourself recently” – and then ask the question: “Do you want to talk about it?” 

If they don’t, refrain from pressuring them, as that has the potential to worsen the situation. At that point, tell them you are available to talk if and when they need, and hopefully this invitation will allow them to approach you in the future. 

Let them know you are here for them 

Letting your teen know that you are in their corner is an important way to gain their trust and make room for future conversation. Simply saying to them, “I have noticed you have seemed down lately; I’m here for you if you need anything,” tells them that while you have no intention of pressuring them into talking, you still have picked up on signs and are wanting to help. 

This may be the subtle invitation your teen needs to allow you into the space where they are hurting and need help. 

Keep timing in mind 

If your teen is coming home from soccer practice, has a mountain of homework to trek through or seems particularly irritable, it might not be the time to engage them in a conversation about mental health. Consider, instead, taking them out to dinner, playing a board game with them or engaging in their favorite hobby before bringing up the topic. 

By having something else to do with their hands – eating, playing, crafting, etc. – they will feel less cornered and potentially more open to discussion. By creating a safe environment for them in which to talk, you may notice they’re more willing to share. 

Be sincere

Mental health can be an incredibly challenging thing to talk about for everyone – you included. Bringing it up to your teen can feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. If this is the case for you, tell your teen. 

Don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, I know things have been challenging lately, and it’s hard for me to talk about it, too. But I want us to figure this out together so no one feels alone.” 

Your teen will respond more genuinely if you approach them in this way than if you pretend to be unbothered or able to fix it all, etc. Teens can see through that, just in the same way you can see through their pretending to be okay. In this aspect, sincerity and authenticity is your most valuable tool.

The benefits 

Talking about mental health has so many benefits, especially because it tells your teen that 1. It’s okay to talk about these things, 2. They don’t have to handle it alone and 3. It’s important to get help when things are beyond our control. 

If you feel like your conversation with your teen can’t go further, it might be time to reach out to the professionals. For help for your teen, yourself and/or the entire family, contact Tapestry by calling 828-490-4032 or contact us online to learn more. 

Related Posts