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Teen Mental Health: A Top Parent Priority

by David Engle | Mar 22, 2023 | 4 min read

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. That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness and remove the stigma attached to teen mental health issues.


Teen Mental Health Is Suffering…Partly Because of COVID

The fact is, all teens face new physical and emotional situations they’re often not equipped to handle. Mood swings and hormones, fear of missing out, the transformation of their bodies, peer pressure, bullying and cyberbullying, social media scrutiny, cliques, academic stress–teenagers deal with a lot. And this isn’t even taking into account the devastating effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on kids. Even three years since the start of the pandemic, kids and teens are still struggling with its residual after-effects.

By the fall of 2020, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry declared a mental health emergency for children and adolescents. The situation continued to deteriorate in 2021, when the Children’s Hospital Association reported that there were more than 47,000 mental health visits to emergency departments at 38 U.S. children’s hospitals during the first three quarters of the year–a nearly 40% increase over the same period in 2020.

Between the mourning of loved ones who lost their lives from COVID, to school closures that deprived children of their education as well as their interactions with friends, to the realization that certain events (such as prom, school dances, athletics, competitions, and performances) were taken from them, to simply living in fear of disease and death, teens experienced a high level of trauma in addition to the normal everyday struggles of kids their age.

Taking all of this into account, it’s no mystery why so many teenagers suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.


Teen Mental Health Statistics Tell a Dangerous Story

A recent Global Youth Culture study revealed that teens in America, when asked about their experiences three months prior to the survey, are going through a mental health crisis. According to the survey:

  • 60% reported experiencing depression
  • 66% reported high anxiety
  • 75% reported feelings of loneliness
  • 35% reported having had suicidal thoughts

A poll conducted in the summer of 2022 of American kids ages 12 to 17, on behalf of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, resulted in these key findings:

  • 64% feel the world is more stressful now than when their parents were their age
  • Approximately 1 out of 6 kids report experiencing negative emotions all the time or often. (Girls are more likely to feel that way than boys.)
  • 25% were diagnosed with a mental health condition
  • 28% reported having received mental health treatment
  • 48% talk regularly with their parents about their mental health; 22% talk regularly about this topic with friends

NAMI, in separate research, also found that:

  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, 75% by age 24​
  • Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for 10 to 34-year-olds ​
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth​
  • 51% of youth 6 to 17 years old receive treatment in a given year

If only 51% of kids ages 6 to 17 are receiving treatment for mental health illnesses, it’s clear that more work must be done to not only raise awareness about teen mental health, but to destigmatize it so kids are more willing (and likely) to seek out the critical treatment they need.


March Toward Mental Health Awareness

The month of March is an important one when it comes to mental health and emotional well-being. March 2 is World Teen Mental Wellness Day, a global day of raising awareness about teens’ mental health challenges and destigmatizing mental illness as a weakness or character flaw.

A few weeks later, on March 19, is Let’s Laugh Day, a day that encourages people to laugh and enjoy the benefits of laughter. Why is this important when discussing mental health? Well, have you heard the expression, “Laughter is the best medicine”? It’s actually true! Medical studies show that a few minutes of laughter can reduce blood pressure, improve your immune system, minimize pain, and boost heart rate. It also helps protect us from stress, which is damaging to both our physical and mental well-being. By laughing just a few minutes a day, you can help your body and mind renew and refresh. Best of all, it’s free and fun!

If your teen is going through a rough time mentally, try to lighten things up by suggesting a few things to improve their mood and get them giggling:

  • Binge-watch a favorite sitcom
  • Check out some standup comedy shows–on TV or in person
  • Watch some funny movies
  • Read a funny book
  • Play with a pet–and if you don’t have one, maybe it’s time to get one!
  • Find some funny YouTube videos or memes
  • Play board games with friends–there are lots of funny ones out there

Don’t underestimate the power of laughter and all of its mental and physical benefits. Make every day Let’s Laugh Day.

Your teen’s mental health is obviously no laughing matter. But by raising awareness and helping remove the stigma of mental health issues surrounding teens, and trying to work some humor and laughter into your teen’s day-to-day, you can help your child through the difficult times they may be experiencing.

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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