An increased desire for personal independence and impulsivity are common among teens. This is because the teenage years as a developmental stage is when peer acceptance and approval begins to affect self-image as much as parental acceptance and approval. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), forming a self-identity is central to this developmental life stage. Therefore, a formerly agreeable child may begin to act in opposition to the instructions, demands, and preferences of parents (or other adult authority figures) as an adolescent. In turn, this can lead to conflicts that foster teen anxiety and depression. If your teen is displaying persistent anxiety or depression, seeking professional mental health support is vital before these symptoms interfere with overall functioning in interpersonal relationships and/or academic performance.
School Guidance Counselors – How They Can Aid You
Empathetic and skillful guidance counselors understand that working with parents matters to enable parents to understand how to help their adolescents who are exhibiting symptoms of a mental health disorder. Meanwhile, study findings in The Professional Counselor revealed that providing support in the social and emotional domain – as well as in the academic and career development domains – is a major part of the school guidance counselor role in assisting adolescents. If your teenager has talked more than once to a guidance counselor, contacting that counselor to obtain advice as to how to support your teenager in coping with stress (fostering anxiety, depression, or an eating disorder) may enable you to find out how to seek an appropriate mental health therapist for your teen.
How Your Teenager’s Primary Care Doctor can Impact Obtaining Mental Health Support
Discussing your worries about mental health issues with your teenager’s primary care doctor (or nurse practitioner) may give you a better sense of whether you teenager is exhibiting real symptoms of a mental health disorder. You may be surprised to learn that primary care physicians and nurse practitioners treating teenagers often ask them questions to ascertain whether the teen is experiencing a mental health disorder (such as chronic depression). Moreover, your teenager’s healthcare provider may be able to aid you in finding an available mental health therapist that is accepting new clients.
Can Your Insurance Plan Aid You in Acquiring Mental Health Treatment for Your Teen?
Your teenager may be covered under your health insurance plan (if you chose a family plan), and an insurance plan case manager can determine if a specific mental health therapist is covered by your health insurance. Likewise, a health insurance case manager can also search for an available mental health therapist covered by that insurance plan for you. Furthermore, a conversation with a case manager can usually enable you to utilize a therapist not normally covered by that insurance plan, if no “in-network” mental health therapist treating adolescents is currently accepting new clients. In this way, you do not have to perform this research yourself to find an available mental health counselor for your teen.
Individual Therapy or Family Therapy – Which is Appropriate for Your Teenager?
Choosing between having your teenager enter individual therapy or family therapy with a mental health therapist depends largely upon the teenager’s mental health issues. If your teenager is exhibiting signs of a major mental illness (such as Schizophrenia or Bipolar I disorder), an inpatient stay in a hospital psychiatric unit may be the best course of action until stabilization through medication treatment occurs. However – if your teenager is exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, depression, and/or the onset of an eating disorder – outpatient therapy may be preferable.
If the mental health symptoms are linked to difficult family dynamics, family therapy may be needed for you to understand your role in contributing to your teenager’s symptoms. However, individual therapy may still be needed by your teenager in order to have a “safe” place (without the presence of parents or siblings) to discuss issues fostering the anxiety, depression, and/or eating disorder.
Social Media and the Covid-19 Pandemic – How These Have Worsened Teen Mental Health
The Mayo Clinic notes that social media can negatively impact the mental health of teens, because it exposes them to bullying, rumor-spreading, and an unrealistic (happier) sense of other teenagers’ daily lives. In particular, girls often post photos of themselves that make them look more attractive and thinner than actually the case. Consequently, the self-image of teenage girls is adversely impacted by the mistaken perception that their own appearance does not “measure up” in comparison. Meanwhile, the lengthy period of “remote learning” (with the suspension of in-person classes) and social distancing necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic has increased anxiety and depression among teens. Indeed, a medical research article in JAMA Pediatrics concluded a two-fold increase in adolescent depression and anxiety symptoms linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Symptoms of a major anxiety disorder can include phobias (such as fear of touching doorknobs due to possible exposure to germs) and insomnia, while symptoms of depression may include social withdrawal, loss of interest in formerly-enjoyed activities, and persistently worsening grades in school. An additional issue for teens suffering from an anxiety disorder or clinical depression is that both are linked to an increased risk for abusing alcohol and/or drugs.
Types of Mental Health Centers
Mental health therapists may work in a nonprofit mental health center (such as within a public health center), “for-profit” mental health center, hospital clinic, group practice, or in a solo practice. Not every mental health center accepts clients in their teens, as most are aimed at treating solely adults. Additionally, some mental health centers that accept adolescent clients treat only mental health disorders (such as anxiety and/or depression), while others also treat a co-disorder of substance abuse.
The outpatient nonprofit child and adolescent mental health center run by Bellevue Hospital (in New York City) is an example of a nonprofit mental health center. Meanwhile, an example of a private mental health center that specifically treats teens and young adults is Newport Academy (which has numerous residential sites, as well as outpatient sites, across the US).
Statistics on Teen Mental Health Treatment since the Covid-19 Pandemic
At least 71% of parents reported that the Covid-19 pandemic had taken a toll on their child’s mental health, and 69% stated on a survey that this pandemic was the worst thing overall that had happened to their child. Yet, the availability of professional mental health counseling for children and teens has not kept pace with the need. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) specified that – even before the Covid-19 pandemic – depression was increasing among teens (with 15.1% of adolescents aged 12-17 experiencing a major depressive episode in 2018). Untreated depression in a teenager can foster suicidal thoughts – and this can eventually lead to an actual suicide attempt. For this reason, obtaining professional mental health treatment – if your teenager has chronic depression – is essential.
Concluding Thoughts – The Importance of Listening to Your Teenager
There are many anxiety-provoking events occurring in the world (such as the Covid-19 pandemic), and teenagers are currently having to adjust to the impact of global occurrences that are not within their control. This is additional to coping with trying to “fit in” with their peers, navigate interpersonal relationships with friends and family members, and make more independent decisions (such as deciding whether to apply to college or not) affecting their future as adults. Allowing time to listen to whatever your teenager wants to tell you – as that person’s parent – can lessen a teenager’s anxiety and depression, while also enabling them to know that your parental love is still unconditional.