October 10th, 2018 marks World Mental Health Awareness Day, recognized by the World Health Organization in efforts to raise awareness, challenge stigmas, and change the way we view mental health disorders across the globe.
In the United States, this year’s Mental Health Awareness Day is focused on youth and the impact today’s society has on their mental well-being. Did you know half of all mental health disorders begin by the age of 14? Most go unrecognized and untreated because of dangerous assumptions regarding “typical teenage angst” and the like. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers aged 15 to 19 and our social attitudes toward mental health care and awareness is a major contributing factor.
When it comes to teen mental health, parents and schools are in the best position to make an impact. Parents are often the first to notice changes within their children, which should never be ignored. Common signs that may point toward mental health issues include:
- Lack of energy
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Social isolation
- Sudden mood swings and emotional outbursts
- Changes in social circles
- Decreased academic performance
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Problems with authority/ Criminal activity
- Drug and alcohol use
Most cases of substance abuse disorders also begin during adolescence, and typically have roots in untreated mental health disorders and/or underlying traumas. These co-occurring disorders can have lasting, detrimental effects on one’s life, so early intervention is necessary. Many schools offer free counseling for students and have resources available for seeking external help if necessary. Keeping the channel of communication open as a parent is also key to substance abuse prevention and protecting your teen’s mental health. Be sure they know you are always there no matter what.