As a parent, there’s nothing more concerning than the well-being of your child. Similarly, there’s nothing quite as painful and heartbreaking as seeing your child in pain, whether it’s physical or mental. If you’re the parent of a teenager, it may seem like those feelings intensify because kids that age are more exposed and more vulnerable for a variety of reasons.
In the first segment of this blog, we discussed the teen mental health crisis happening in America right now, how COVID played a key role in the deterioration of teen mental health, and how to raise awareness and destigmatize mental health among teens. In this installment, we’ll let you know what to look for when your child is hurting, especially mentally, and what you can do to help them through this difficult time.
NAMI & Bridgeway Academy Join Forces for Parent Educator Webinar on Teen Mental Health
In our last blog, we talked about the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and highlighted some of their important research on teen mental health. We were lucky enough to have NAMI’s Lehigh Valley (PA) branch collaborate with Bridgeway Academy recently for an informative Parent Educator Webinar (attended by parents just like you). During this webinar, NAMI’s Dr. Dennis Geiger and Kelley Joseph, as well as Karen and Darian Derrico, stars of TLC’s Doubling Down with the Derricos reality TV show, discussed critically important topics surrounding teenagers’ mental health.
The “Teen Mental Health: A Top Parent Priority” webinar covered situations such as knowing when depression becomes a mental health issue, when to get involved in your child’s mental health, the myths and realities of mental illness, barriers to receiving treatment, strategies for parents and caregivers, and when to worry about your teen’s mental health.
Taking all of this into account, it’s no mystery why so many teenagers suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Addressing a Teen’s Mental Well-Being
NAMI, along with MentalhHealth.gov, also suggests these steps to help you address your teen’s mental well-being.
Learn the Signs
Be on the lookout for any potential red flags or warning signs displayed by your child. Unfortunately, these aren’t always obvious. Aside from clear displays of stress and anger such as outbursts, crying, and irritability, more subtle warning signs might include:
- Change in appearance or personal hygiene
- Steep decline in grades
- Self-imposed isolation from peers and/or family
- General apathy
- Statements such as “I’m so tired of this” or “I can’t do this anymore”
- Lost interest in things that they used to enjoy
- Low energy
- Changes in sleep habits
- Fear gaining weight or diet, including excessive exercise
- Self-harm behaviors, such as cutting or burning skin
Talk and Listen
If you notice any of these signs, talk and listen to your child–without passing judgment or applying pressure–about what is bothering them through open-ended questions that encourage conversation. It’s also important to avoid comments that might minimize your child’s situation, such as, “It’s not a big deal,” “You’ll be fine,” “I went through that, it’s not that bad,” “You’ll grow out of it,” “It’s just a phase,” and “Just try to ignore it.” This is not what kids need–or want–to hear.
Listen to your child intently and with undivided attention, communicate in a straightforward way, avoid high emotions, look for reactions, and ask questions such as:
- Can you tell me more about what is happening?
- How you are feeling?
- Have you had feelings like this in the past?
- Sometimes you need to talk to an adult about your feelings. I’m here to listen.
- How can I help you feel better?
- Do you feel like you want to talk to someone else about your problem?
- I’m worried about your safety. Can you tell me if you have thoughts about harming yourself or others?
Sometimes teenagers aren’t interested in sitting down and discussing their feelings. Oftentimes, taking a walk while talking or playing a game while talking can help them open up more comfortably.
If your child tells you that they’d like to talk to a therapist, counselor, or doctor, take the request seriously. Most health insurance providers cover mental health services, so check with yours to make sure that you’re covered. If not, there are many support services available. Visit NAMI’s support groups page, or call the NAMI helpline at (800) 950-6264. You can also text “HelpLine” to 62640 to get more information.
Know the Crisis Lines
If your child is going through a mental health crisis, it’s important to know the many hotlines and websites that can provide immediate support. Here are some of those resources.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Free, 24/7 confidential support for those in distress. 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Crisis Text Line: Free, 24/7 text support. Text 741741 from anywhere in the U.S. to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.
- Trevor Lifeline & TrevorSpace: 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ community. 1-866-488-7386 to talk. For TrevorText, text “START” to 678678.
- Trans Lifeline: Organization dedicated to improving the quality of trans lives by responding to the critical needs with direct service, material support, advocacy, and education. 1-877-565-8860.
- SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Accurate data, up-to-date research, and knowledge of effective strategies and interventions essential to our ability to prevent suicide.
- SPRC’s Resources and Programs Repository: Searchable repository with information on several types of suicide prevention programs, such as education/training, screening, treatment, and environmental change.
- The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide: What We Know and What It Means: Concrete, action-oriented information based on the latest science to help improve your understanding of and ability to prevent and respond to bullying and suicide-related behavior.
- #Chatsafe: A Young Person’s Guide for Communicating Safely Online About Suicide: Provides support to those who might be responding to suicide-related content posted by others or for those who might want to share their own feelings and experiences with suicidal thoughts, feelings, or behaviors.
- Help a Friend in Need: A Facebook and Instagram Guide: Collaboration with The Jed Foundation and The Clinton Foundation, nonprofits that work to promote emotional well-being and to share potential warning signs that a friend might be in emotional distress and need your help.
- Seize the Awkward: Encourages teens and young adults to embrace the awkwardness and use this moment as an opportunity to reach out to a friend.
- What to Do if You’re Concerned About Your Teen’s Mental Health: A Conversation Guide: Designed to help parents and families concerned about their teen’s mental health and emotional well-being have important conversations with their child.
- Youth Mental Health First Aid: Designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and others how to help an adolescent experiencing a mental health or addiction challenge or crisis.
Darian Derrico Shares Her Teen Stress
Being a teen is stressful enough. Now imagine being a teen who has 13 younger siblings. Being a teen who has 13 younger siblings and who is a star of a reality show? Mind-boggling. Yet that’s the life Darian Derrico, the 17-year-old eldest child of Karen and Deon Derrico, faces when she wakes up each morning. And, sure, being on a TV show (TLC’s Doubling Down with the Derricos) may have its perks…but Darian is just a real teen making real teen decisions and experiencing real teen stress–all in the public eye.
Darian, who homeschools with Bridgeway Academy, joined mom Karen as well as Dr. Geiger and Kelley Joseph for our recent webinar and provided plenty of insight on teen mental health and stress, as well as some helpful tips. After all, she gets stressed out by school just like any other teen. “The overload of assignments I have to do can be a little bit stressful,” Darian stated. “And I tend to procrastinate sometimes, so I have to talk myself out of procrastinating because it gets me nowhere.”
She also went on to list bullying, school violence, and relationships (family and friend) as other causes of teen stress. Darian also mentioned a source of stress that may seem minor on the surface, but is actually rooted in so many teens’ insecurity about their appearance–acne. “I know when I get overwhelmed, I get acne and it tends to get really bad,” Darian explained. “So I have to find ways to calm myself down.”
As a 17-year-old high school junior, Darian also has some big life decisions and changes on the horizon. These can certainly cause feelings of stress and anxiety among young adults her age. “Being a senior, I know what I want to do,” Darian said. “But there are times when I’m like, ‘How am I going to navigate as an adult?’ and that can be stressful sometimes.”
Talking and communication have proven effective at helping reduce Darian’s stress.
“I have my parents saying, ‘We have your back, you can always talk to us. If you have any questions about adulthood, you can always come to me,” and that helps lower my stress.” Additionally, Darian focuses on her breathing, journals, and listens to music to help her calm down during stressful times–all helpful advice for teens experiencing stress.
As her mom, Karen understands these periods of stress and helps to calm Darian down by telling her, “You’re a great role model for your 13 other siblings and for other teenagers.” Karen also discussed how spending time together and bonding over common interests and activities helps both mom and daughter de-stress and offers valuable time to talk. “Darian and I go for a walk in the neighborhood. Or we just find a movie or a game that we like, and that builds the conversation.”
Karen Derrico’s REST Method for Dealing with Stress
Picture yourself as a stay-at-home mom. Of 14 children. Sounds pretty stressful, right? Welcome to the world of Karen Derrico. As a parent of 14 kids, one would have to figure out a method for de-stressing. That’s exactly what Karen did. She calls it REST. And this is what it means…
R is for…Reading or Research
“I found that I am at my most creative when I’m stressed. That’s not a good thing! But that’s when I do research. Right now, me and my oldest son are going to do a raised garden together. So I research that, we research it together. And we’re communicating and finding things out about each other.”
E is for…Easing Your Mind
“I ease my mind by listening to my favorite motivational speaker or my favorite music to calm down. I listen to one of my favorite motivational speakers every night. Now, when my children go to bed, they’re listening to it at night. It helps them to calm down, and that’s something I’m happy about because I’ve given them a tool to use to help them calm down when they are stressed.”
S is for…Sit and Share
“I sit and share with my community, my other moms, my other parents, my other friends who can uplift me. No one that’s going to be a Debbie Downer and join in on my stress. My husband works outside the home at different real estate properties and there are times I’ll call him in the middle of the day and I’m like, ‘Baby, let me tell you this…’ and he’ll be like, ‘Baby, I’m at work…’ and we’ll laugh about it. But he’s also glad that I took that moment to sit and share with him.”
T is for…Turn the Page in Your Journal
“I turn the page in my journal and write down all the things that I’m thankful for. I am healthy. My spouse is healthy. My children are healthy. I have a roof over my head. Just list all those things out and you will be amazed at looking at your pros and cons and saying, ‘Wow, my pros outweigh the cons.’”
Karen concluded, “I hope this helps other other moms and other parents out there. Having a daughter, my oldest, go away to school for a summer program is really great, but it also gives me nerves because we still have to think about what’s going on in the actual world, and I can’t protect her. Me, my husband, we can’t protect her forever. I want to wrap her in bubble wrap, and send her off and say, ‘Call me every hour!,’ and put trackers on her, but she has to become an adult. And I have to know that I can trust her, both my husband and I. REST has been a huge lifesaver for me. Just remember the REST!”
Watch Our Webinar
Because of the importance of this topic, we’ve made the webinar recording link available to you. Please take advantage of this valuable resource, as it is full of helpful information regarding teen mental health.
We hope you can use the tips, advice, and resources we’ve shared to help your teen through the difficult times they may be experiencing.