Adolescents with Mental Health Conditions: Helping Parents and Caretakers

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family and adolescent with mental health conditionAccording to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of 5 children experience a mental health condition in a given year. That being said, having a child with a mental illness can be extremely difficult. However, there are ways to make things easier for your child and yourself. Initially, it is important to begin taking notice of your child’s or teen’s mood, behaviors, and emotions. Early intervention is vital because, oftentimes, mental health conditions, like depression, worsen over time (if left untreated).

In order to effectively help your child manage a mental illness, you must take care of yourself as well. When a member of a family in a household has a mental health condition, their symptoms can affect their loved ones around them. This is especially true when a teenager or child has a mental disorder, as adolescents mainly rely on their family members for care. Therefore, while caring for a child who suffers from mental conditions, practicing self-care is vital. As a result, you will be better able to understand your child’s mental illness – what it is, what to look for, and how to help.

What To Do When Your Child Displays Symptoms of Mental Illness

If your child or teenager begins to display symptoms of adolescent mental illness, schedule an appointment with a licensed psychologist or primary healthcare physician as soon as possible. Also, make sure that you provide your child’s healthcare professional with detailed information. This allows them to make proper diagnoses, and eventually, create an effective plan to manage your child’s mental health condition.

Important information to provide your child’s physician:

  • Past mental health evaluations and additional medical records
  • Description of symptoms, when they began, and whether they have changed over time
  • Any medications or medical treatment your child is currently receiving
  • Anything information the doctor requests or you find relevant to share

If the healthcare physician does not provide a diagnosis, you should always ask why and consider their reasoning. After listening to the doctor’s explanation, if you still believe that your child has a mental health condition you should seek a second opinion. It is better to do so and remain cautious, rather than allowing an undiagnosed mental illness to progress.

Ways To Help Your Child After a Diagnosis

Educate Yourself

After seeking help from healthcare professionals, you should educate yourself on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of your child’s mental health condition. One effective way of finding support and gaining knowledge is to join a support group for parents of children with mental disorders. In doing so, you will learn how to cope with your child’s condition and how to help manage it. Additionally, you can find information and gain insight into your child’s mental health condition by researching online or consulting with treatment specialists.

Talk With Your Child’s School

If your child has a mental health condition, there may be special education services that they qualify for. This is because certain mental health conditions can affect a child’s or teen’s ability to function in an educational setting. As a result, they may suffer from frustration, stress, and worsening of symptoms. In order to avoid this, talk with your child’s school to ensure that they are providing all of the services your child deserves.

Practice Patience and Acceptance

Dealing with the symptoms of your child’s mental health condition can be difficult. However, it is important to be patient and understanding when your child is having a hard time. While it may seem as if everything is working against you, you must remember that your child can not control their behavior yet. Learning how to manage symptoms of mental illness can be a long and tiring journey, especially for children. Therefore, yelling or being angry with them will only further complicate their recovery and cause more stress on the entire household. Instead, you must set your expectations with your child’s mental health condition taken into consideration.

Keeping the Family Connected

Having a child with a mental illness can cause strain on the whole family. This is because it is easy to allow your concern for your child to consume your whole life. While this is noble, it is vital that you take care of yourself and additional family members as well. Personal connection is extremely important for those suffering from mental illness, especially in regard to their family. Here are some things to remember:

Practice Self-Care

While it is your responsibility to care for your teen or child, you must continue to care for yourself as well. While you may have to adjust your lifestyle in accordance with your child’s mental illness, you should never neglect your own personal needs. Additionally, in some cases, the stress of caring for someone with a mental illness can cause individuals to develop their own disorders like anxiety, depression, or PTSD. If you begin to feel like you are struggling, do not hesitate to seek professional help for yourself. Remember, if you are not taking care of yourself, it is impossible to care for anyone else. If you can not practice self-care for yourself, do so for the sake of your family.

Take Care Of Your Family

If you have a child with a mental health condition, as well as additional children, it can be easy to pay more attention to the child who is clearly suffering. However, if you spend too much time caring for one child, the other one may feel unimportant or neglected. In order to prevent this, make sure to explain your child’s mental health condition to their sibling(s) and spend individual time with each of your children. Keeping a balanced family can be helpful in reducing stress for everyone, which will help to alleviate any symptoms of mental illness.