Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to High Schooler Mental Health

Teenagers can often be moody or emotional due to the physical and hormonal changes they are experiencing. On top of that, today’s teens face many day-to-day challenges — academic competition, cyber bullying, school violence, and body shaming, to name a few.

In light of these mood fluctuations and outside stressors, it can often be difficult to distinguish between “normal” moodiness and signs of a building mental issue, such as anxiety, depression, or other emotional problems. These issues, left unchecked, have the potential to spiral into a form of mental illness.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five youth suffer from a mental health condition, and less than half receive treatment. NAMI also states that half of all people living with a mental illness experience the first symptoms by the age of 14. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that suicide is the third leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, and every year 157,000 youth between those same ages undergo emergency treatment for self-inflicted injuries.

What can be done about this epidemic? There is no single answer — but educating parents, guardians, teachers, and other school employees can help teens maintain or regain their mental health through behavior observation, asking questions, and listening to the answers. Read on to learn what resources are available for both teens who may need mental health assistance and the adults who want to help them.

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Tips for Parents to Help Teens Deal with Emotions

One of the best ways to prevent mental health crises is to help adolescents and teens develop emotional intelligence and healthy coping skills. It’s also greatly beneficial if both teens and adolescents develop and practice good communication skills, so teens can talk about their problems when they arise and ask for help when it’s needed.

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Tips for Teachers and Other School Employees

During the school week, many teens spend more time around their teachers and other school administrators than they do with their families. However, teachers’ time and resources are often stretched thin, and they don’t always have the sufficient familiarity with students to recognize when a teen is hurting or in trouble. The following resources were developed for educators to help recognize mental and emotional problems and offer help to their students.

  • Promoting Mental Health in Middle Level and High Schools: This article from the National Association of Secondary School Principals offers advice for creating a safe school climate.
  • Mental Health Screening: This page from the NAMI website directly addresses mental health screening in schools.
  • For Educators: This page from MentalHealth.gov details what signs can help teachers and other school staff recognize when students are in crisis. It also offers advice on developing mental health programs and creating safe classrooms.
  • Resources for Kids and Teens: This page features links to dozens of academic and educational resources to help educators (and other adults) connect kids to the help they need.
  • Teaching Students with Mental Health Disorders: This in-depth paper discusses how teachers can best teach students who suffer from depression.
  • A Caring Presence: This page provides information on how teachers and other adults can recognize depression in teens and help them cope with it.

Help for Teens in Crisis

Sometimes, teenagers think they don’t have an adult they can turn to for help, whether it’s just to talk, to ask questions, or for medical attention. The following resources are available for teens who may need immediate intervention.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: This organization offers 24/7 phone counseling to prevent suicide.
  • Connect Safely: This website offers several resources for anyone experiencing trauma, including domestic violence and substance abuse. It also offers help for homeless youth.
  • Teen Line: This page connects teens with other teens who are trained to talk to kids in crisis. There’s a phone or text option.
  • Crisis Lines and Hotlines: The Palo Alto Medical Foundation put together a list of links for teens looking for help with anything from pregnancy to smoking to LGBTQ+ issues.
  • Hotlines and Websites for Teens: This site links teens directly to various hotlines they can use to get help.
  • Teen Line: This hotline is available for calls, text messages, and emails from teens in crisis.

Therapy Resources for Teens

  • Three Signs Your Teen Needs Therapy: This article discusses the differences between “teen angst” and more serious conditions.
  • Counseling and Therapy: This resource is geared especially for young women. It discusses who needs therapy, what types are available, and how to choose the correct type.
  • Top 10 Reasons Teens Go to Therapy: This article discusses how to recognize if a teenager needs therapy and how they might benefit from visiting a therapist.
  • Helping Resistant Teens Into Treatment: The Child Mind Institute offers information about why teens can be reluctant to visit a therapist and offers advice on how adults can help them understand why it could be beneficial.
  • How Animal Therapy Is Helping Teens: Assisted animal therapy has been shown to help people of all ages, and can be especially helpful to struggling teens. Learn why in this article.

Addressing Teen Mental Health.

  • Ending the Silence: This video from NAMI addresses teen mental health issues in an attempt to end the stigma surrounding recovery.

Tales From a Teenage Mental Health Advocate: 15-year-old Amanda Southworth discusses her struggles with mental illness and suicidal thoughts in this TEDx talk.

  • Stronger Than Stigma: This short film was created by a teen for his civics class and discusses the stigma around admitting to depression or other mental health issues.

Though it may be difficult to recognize mental illness, it’s imperative that adults and educators know the signs and steer adolescents and teens toward the help they need. With intervention and therapy, young people who suffer from mental illness may receive the resources, the professional help, or the medical attention they need to begin their journey to a better life.