Teen Mental Health Signs Your Teen May Need More Support

Teen mental health is a growing concern, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many teenagers are facing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, and it can be difficult for parents to know when to seek help. In this article, we will discuss the signs that your teen may be struggling and may need more support. We will also provide resources for young people to help them navigate their mental health challenges.

The Pressures Teens Face

Teenagers today face a multitude of pressures that can contribute to their mental health struggles. These pressures include:

  1. Overwhelming pressure to succeed academically and gain admission to elite colleges and universities.
  2. The need to excel in extracurricular activities such as sports or the performing arts.
  3. Busy schedules that leave little time for rest, relaxation, and unstructured fun.
  4. Bullying, both in person and on social media platforms.
  5. Concerns about climate change, global conflict, and other weighty issues.
  6. Discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, weight, religion, disability, or other factors.
  7. Financial difficulties and lack of resources for basic needs such as housing and food.

Signs Your Teen May Be Struggling

As a parent or caregiver, it’s important to be aware of the signs that your teen may be experiencing mental health difficulties. These signs can vary from person to person, but some common indicators include:

  1. Mood swings, irritability, anger, or tearfulness.
  2. Changes in sleep patterns, weight, eating habits, or other everyday routines.
  3. Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy or quitting activities altogether.
  4. Withdrawing from friends, family, and social interactions.
  5. Canceling plans with close friends without explanation.
  6. Academic struggles that are out of the ordinary, such as failing quizzes or refusing to do homework.
  7. Persistent worrying or racing thoughts.
  8. Making new friends that you haven’t met before.
  9. Refusing to discuss what’s bothering them, even in a safe and supportive environment.
  10. Becoming obsessed with a certain goal or outcome.
  11. Signs of drug or alcohol use.
  12. Signs of self-harm, such as cuts, burns, or unexplained bruises.
  13. Changes in sexual activity or interest.

It’s important to note that having one or more of these symptoms does not necessarily mean your teen is in crisis. Teenagers go through biological and hormonal changes that can impact their mood and behavior. However, if you consistently observe these signs and they are affecting your teen’s daily life, it may be time to have a conversation about their mental health.

Common Mental Health Conditions in Teens

Teenagers can experience a range of mental health conditions, some of which are more common than others. The most prevalent mental health conditions among U.S. tweens and teens include:

  1. Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which affects nearly 10% of children aged 3 to 17.
  2. Anxiety, which interferes with everyday functioning in around 9.5% of teenagers.
  3. Depression, which affects approximately 4.5% of teens. Depression in teenagers may present differently from typical symptoms and can manifest as anger or irritability.
  4. Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, which can have serious health consequences for teens.
  5. Self-harm, which is a concerning behavior that is often underreported and requires immediate attention.

Substance Use and Mental Health

Substance use is a common issue among teenagers and can exacerbate existing mental health problems. Approximately 15% of high school students report using street drugs, misusing prescription opioids, or engaging in binge drinking. Substance use is often a coping mechanism for difficult emotions or circumstances, indicating underlying emotional pain that should be addressed.

The Role of Social Media

Social media plays a significant role in the lives of young people today, with platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok being widely used. While social media can foster positive connections, it also poses risks to mental health. Research is still ongoing to understand the impact of social media on children and teens, but it’s essential for parents to be aware of its potential effects and monitor their child’s social media use.

Opening Conversations About Mental Health

As a parent or caregiver, it’s crucial to create a safe space for your teen to discuss their mental health. Here are some tips for opening conversations:

  1. Create a judgment-free zone where your teen feels comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings.
  2. Listen more than you speak, giving your teen the space to express themselves fully.
  3. Avoid putting your teen on the defensive by using fair and factual statements instead of accusatory language.
  4. Be prepared for silence and give your teen time to process their emotions before expecting a response.
  5. Be aware of the stigma surrounding mental health and reassure your teen that seeking help is a sign of strength.
  6. Seek professional help from your pediatrician or a mental health specialist if you’re concerned about your teen’s mental health.

How Pediatricians Can Support You

Pediatricians play a crucial role in supporting the mental health of teenagers. They can provide information about treatment options, including medications, and refer you to mental health specialists for further evaluation. Your pediatrician will become part of a care team that can help create a treatment plan and a crisis plan if your child’s condition worsens.

What to Do If Your Teen is Having Suicidal Thoughts

If your teen is experiencing thoughts of suicide, it is essential not to ignore the situation. Immediate action should be taken to ensure their safety. Call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or text ‘TALK’ to 741741 for help. If your teen is not in immediate crisis but still having suicidal thoughts, reach out to their pediatrician or mental health provider for assistance and support.

Promoting Positive Mental Health

In addition to addressing problems, it’s important to promote positive mental health and self-care in teenagers. Encourage your teen to engage in activities that boost their mood and well-being and make time for family activities that foster positive connections. Remember that mental health is an ongoing concern, and nurturing it should be a priority in your day-to-day life.


Teen mental health is a critical issue that requires attention and support from parents, caregivers, and healthcare professionals. By recognizing the signs of mental health struggles, opening conversations with your teen, and seeking help when needed, you can play a vital role in supporting your teenager’s well-being. Remember, mental health is just as important as physical health, and seeking treatment is a sign of strength. With the right support and resources, young people can thrive and overcome their mental health challenges. For more resources for young people, visit https://experience-wellbeing.com.