If you’ve started to recognize some symptoms of a mental illness in your teen or aren’t quite acting like themselves, it can be hard to know what to do next. How will your teen feel about approaching a mental health professional? What if they need treatment? It’s important to seek help because recovery is possible. Here are some ways you can prepare your teen for this process.
When we have a really bad cough or physical pain, it’s not uncommon for us to go see a doctor. However, it often happens that we feel a little apprehensive to talk to a mental health professional. The symptoms of mental illness may revolve more around emotion, feeling and temperament instead of the physical body, something we aren’t often taught about in school. Therefore, it’s helpful to reduce some of the stigma around mental health issues before your teen seeks treatment. Let your teen know that there are opportunities for healing and recovery when they seek help, just like when they go to see a doctor for an upset stomach.
Separate Them From Their Symptoms
Teens stress out a lot about their identity. They want to be funny, appealing, smart, athletic, talented—the list goes on. It’s unlikely that they’ve ever wanted to add “depressed,” “anxious,” “bipolar” or “addicted” to that list.
Help your teen to understand that their struggles, symptoms and any potential diagnosis do not have to define them. In other words, if the mental health professional determines that your teen is living with bipolar disorder, this doesn’t mean that being bipolar is their only identity.
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Help Them Understand Their Symptoms
While it’s extremely important that your teen doesn’t self-diagnose or that you don’t reach conclusions for them, make sure that your teen has a good understanding of their symptoms. This will help them to feel more confident when answering questions that a doctor might ask them during an assessment.
Ensure They Know They Aren’t Alone
One of the scariest things for anyone seeking mental health treatment is a feeling of isolation, alienation and abandonment. Help your teen understand that they are supported and cared for. Let them know that any outcome from their visit with a mental health professional will not change your opinion of them. Ensure they know that you will stand by them throughout the entire process. Help doesn’t have to be sought alone.
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