Mental health issues in young children have been on the rise for years. Depression, anxiety, and eating disorders are the most commonly diagnosed problems, and according to the CDC, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teens. Yet, it’s something that parents and caregivers tend to shy away from talking about because, despite the decline of stigma attached to mental health, suicide is still a taboo topic.

Several things contribute to the rise in mental health issues in young people, from the lack of services for children under twelve to the increase in social media usage- which often causes pressure to fit in and a dramatic rise in cyberbullying.

mental health

Mental health check-ins are important

It’s essential for adults to be aware of changes in their child’s mental health- even if those changes seem subtle. You should be asking your kids about their lives every day. Between school, work, and other activities, it can be easy to forget to connect. Just taking a few minutes to chat is an excellent opportunity to listen and open the door to much-needed conversations.

Open-ended questions are best since these can help determine if they’re suffering from depression, anxiety, or bullying. So many times, kids suffer in silence because they’re afraid of worrying the adults in their lives or afraid they’ll get into trouble. Your child needs to know that they can talk to you openly and that you won’t judge them.

Look for warning signs

Parents of teenagers and young adults are used to seeing changes in their kids. The teenage years can be an emotional roller coaster, and some moodiness and attitude are normal, but there are signs to watch for if you feel like your child is depressed and struggling.

Parents and caregivers can be on the lookout for:

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Isolation

  • Extreme irritability

  • Loss of interest in favorite activities

  • Unprovoked anger

  • Episodes of rage

  • Substance use

  • Neglecting personal hygiene

  • Sudden obsession with death or dying

Although some kids have higher risk factors for suicide than others, such as a previous mental health diagnosis, a family history of suicide, or being a victim of violence or bullying, suicide doesn’t discriminate, and no one is immune.

Pay attention to any changes in behavior and trust your instincts. If anything seems off, don’t procrastinate seeking help because the issue may only get worse.

Tips for talking to young people about mental health

Mental health is a sensitive subject, and kids- especially teenagers aren’t always the most receptive audience. Teenagers especially have difficulty reaching out to anyone- much less adults- because they fear being criticized or judged.

When a teen is struggling, communication and connection are crucial. When talking to your child about heavy topics, it’s important to remember to:

Be respectful.

Your teen or young adult won’t listen if you start talking at them or lecturing them. Conversations about heavy topics like suicide need to be two-way conversations. Parents and caregivers need to listen as much as they speak during these talks.

Be present.

To have a meaningful discussion with your child, you have to give them your undivided attention. It’s a chance to put the phone down, turn off the television and focus on the conversation.

Be honest and open.

Kids may ask hard questions, and it’s important to answer them as directly as possible, depending on their age and maturity level. So much of the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide comes from shame, so it’s essential to let them know that it’s ok to talk about these things and ask questions.

If your child is showing signs of severe depression or voicing thoughts of suicide, contact Serene Healthto schedule an appointment with one of our therapists. We offer many behavioral health and mental health services. We also have appointments available seven days a week through our Telehealth platform. Call 844-737-3638 or visit www.serenehealth.com to schedule an appointment.