Layla’s son was just like any other young teen going through the usual pecking order stuff lots of other kids experience in the throes of freshman life. Starting afresh in high school is hard for most kids, but Josh seemed to take it a little bit harder than his peers. When he became more and more withdrawn. Layla pressed in, insisting that he talk to her; but, he only refused. Over several months, all but one of Josh’s friends scattered from his life. The deafening silence from Josh about what was troubling him came screaming out the day he tried to take his life. The next thing she knew, a psychiatrist from the hospital Josh was admitted to for self-inflicted injuries wanted to talk to her and her husband about their teen’s mental health issues. Layla’s only thought was, “Why do you think he has mental health issues?”
Most of the stigma around any teen’s mental health issues come from a misconception about what a mental health issue really is. When you see the term, what comes to mind? Is it a homeless man dressed in filthy clothes talking to himself while wheeling a shopping cart stuffed full of random things down the street? Is it an in-patient person confined to a psychiatric ward? Does the thought of a person with mental health issues scare you?
If you are honest about it, you said yes to all three questions without hesitation. Mental health is much broader than what most typically envision. Issues around mental health are a spectrum covering anything from mild depression to full sensory hallucinations and anything in between. How much you know about mental health issues makes a difference in how fast you will seek treatment for someone you love. The time to educate yourself on mental health is now.
Educate Yourself About Teen Mental Health
Admitting there is a problem is the first step in healing for any teen’s mental health issues. Many parents are desperate to dismiss sudden changes in behavior as typical teenage emotional phases that will soon change like their preference in clothing styles. This is not always the case. Mood changes can certainly be part of puberty and hormonal fluctuations, but can also be a sign of trouble. Prolonged periods of withdrawing from normal family life and social interests is a warning something else more serious is on the horizon. Here is what you can do when your observances about your teen persist:
- Start documenting behavior and circumstances around them
- Note any sudden changes in hygiene or sleeping patterns
- Notice if they stop socializing or stop doing what interests them
- Take these observances to their doctor for further evaluation
- Keep your own records of observation for anyone treating your teen
Getting Help May Include Advocacy For Your Teen’s Mental Health Issues
In a perfect world, your teen’s medical professionals in charge of their routine healthcare would jump to action as soon as you say the words, “I think something is going on.” Just like you might have wanted to shrug off some of the behavior patterns initially, your teen’s doctor may want to do the same. You know your child more than anyone. If the alarm bells are going off for you, Mom/Dad, press in. Insist on further evaluation if your child’s doctor seems reluctant. You might not want to be painted as the alarmist parent, but better to apologize for going a little overboard now than wishing you’d done more later. It’s okay to say you don’t agree with the assessment done by your child’s doctor. It’s also okay to ask for a referral for a second opinion. Do what you need to if you are worried about your teen’s mental health issues.
Document, Share, Communicate, Repeat
Keeping on top of your teen’s mental health issues will involve you, the parent, making sure everyone involved on the mental health treatment team knows exactly what is going on and when. Documenting changes in behavior, especially when treatment plans and medications are new, goes a long way in stabilizing the patient and bringing harmony back to your family. Even if it is a small change, make note of it, put it in writing, and share it with the professionals in charge of your child’s mental health as it relates to everyday life.
Let your teen’s school in on your child’s diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plans as soon as possible. If your child is in school, they will be observing your child during the day more often than you. Make sure they are documenting and sharing behavior observances with the same level of urgency that you are. What goes on in school matters just as much as what is going on at home when it comes to your teen’s mental health team. Don’t underestimate the power of over communicating in these types of scenarios. What might be small issues to you could be big pieces of information to the professionals.
Collaboration in the real world takes a lot of effort but collaborating on your teen’s mental health issues just got a little bit easier. eCare Vault is the first solution of its kind to bring parent, teen, the mental health team, and education professionals to the same table to collaborate in real-time. Sharing information, ideas, progress, test results, social/behavior observances, anything that would help the mental health team treat and the education professionals be able to educate; the right information in the right hands at the right time. You can do all of this from your own handheld device with eCare Vault!
If you are concerned over your teen’s mental health issues, first, get the help they need. Next, put the power of collaboration around treatment in your own hands with eCare Vault and see how real communication in the 21st century can impact outcomes for your teen’s mental health issues for the better.