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For the adolescent population, poor mental health is a growing problem. The teen years are supposed to be formative years, but physical, emotional, and social changes can make adolescents vulnerable to mental health problems. Protecting adolescents from adversity, promoting psychological well-being, and ensuring access to mental health care are critical for their health and well-being. For these reasons and more, parents should know what mental illness is and how to access help for their children.

Understanding mental illness can be difficult as there are so many factors that affect mental health. For adolescents, the more risk factors they are exposed to, the greater the impact can be on their mental health. Pressure to conform with peers, exploration of identity, and media influence can contribute to stress during adolescence and lead to mental illness. Other risk factors include quality of home life, stigma, discrimination or exclusion, and lack of access to quality support and services.

Poor mental health in adolescence is a big deal as it can impact multiple areas of a teen’s life. Adolescents with poor mental health may struggle with school, decision-making, and overall health. Mental health problems often go hand in hand with risky behaviors such as drug use, violence, and higher-risk sexual behaviors leading to HIV, STDs, and unintended pregnancies. These behaviors are likely to carry over into adulthood if adolescents do not develop good mental health.

Fortunately, adolescents are resilient at building strong bonds. Forming relationships with adults and friends at school, at home, and in the community provide youth with a sense of connectedness. These strategies can help promote and support good mental health in youth.

Schools, families, healthcare providers, and online resources are valuable when it comes to services that support adolescents with mental health needs. School is where adolescents spend most of their time, so having a safe and supportive environment is critical to their wellbeing. Schools can also provide connections to mental health services, integrate social and emotional learning, and have staff that is trained to identify when a student needs help.

The family component is probably the most important. It is critical to be engaged with your adolescent by spending time with them enjoying shared activities, helping with homework, facilitating healthy decision-making, and communicating with teachers regularly. When you are involved in your adolescent’s life, it is easier to identify signs that something is going on that requires attention. Have a conversation first and if you are concerned that they may be struggling with mental illness, reach out to their primary care physician.

An adolescent’s primary care physician is the gateway to proper mental health care. As healthcare providers, they are there to try to help figure out what is going on, provide education to adolescents and parents about healthy behaviors, and refer out to mental health specialists if mental illness is a concern.

Schools and healthcare providers can provide information regarding mental health resources, but for those looking for something additional, online is a great place to look. There are so many web pages devoted to mental health resources specific to adolescents and young adults. These include information specific to understanding mental illness, connections to support groups and peer networks, helplines, treatment locators, and so much more.

Here at Aloha Integrative Health we also know how important it is to have resources to aid in mental health. For this reason, we have compiled a list of resources for those who may be struggling or in crisis. If your situation is an emergency, do not hesitate to call 911.

About the Author

Kimberly Sandberg Aloha Integrative Health
Kim Sandberg is the owner and founder of Aloha Integrative Health and a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. She has two advanced degrees: a Masters of Science in Nursing as a Nurse Anesthetist and a Doctor of Nursing Practice. She has worked in a variety of settings, though the biggest impact on Kim and her work came from her 28 years of service in the Navy Reserve.

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