How parents can help a teenager with anxiety or depression

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A new study has revealed that half of young people experience a problem with mental health

Alice Howarth

A new study has revealed that young people’s happiness has dropped to its lowest level since 2009.

Conducted by the Prince’s Trust, the study monitored people aged between 16 and 25 and ranked their happiness levels in areas such as work and relationships via an index ranging from 0 to 100. The average figure was found to be 57, four points lower than last year and down from 70 when the study was first launched.

Over half of the participants said they don’t feel emotionally strong enough to deal with setbacks in life. 61 per cent of stated that they regularly felt stressed, 53 per cent said they regularly felt anxious and 27 per cent said they felt hopeless on a regular basis. These emotions were most commonly triggered by financial and career worry, with 54 per cent revealing they’re worried about money.

Of course, it’s well known that stress, anxiety and depression is tough for anyone to deal with, but couple that with the hormonal overhaul that happens during adolescence, and mental health issues can feel like a terrifying and unconquerable burden for teenagers and young adults.

Fear about what other people might say, fear of being laughed at and fear of not being taken seriously can often stop young people from taking the first step in admitting they need help.

This is why it’s so important that parents and loved ones know the ways to spot that children could be struggling and offer ways to help them cope and manage stress at home.

Here, David Brudö from personal development and mental wellbeing app Remente, explains how parents can best support their child through a difficult period.

Knowing the signs

When it comes to teenagers, it can be difficult to know the difference between a bad mood related to hormone changes, and a bad mood that is a signifier of an underlying mental health condition, like anxiety or depression. The best way to know if a teenager is depressed is to see if you notice a marked difference in their behaviour – if they are no longer doing the things that they enjoy, if their academic performance is suffering or if their bad mood lasts longer than a few weeks, it could be a sign of a mental health issue.

Learn to listen

If your teen starts talking to you about how they are feeling, make an effort to listen to them, without being too critical of them or overbearing in your worry. While you might feel the urge to advise them or to impart knowledge, they want to know that they can speak to you, and that you acknowledge their feelings, without judging them. Knowing that you are there for them, supporting them, can do a lot to help a depressed or anxious teen.

 

Keep the discussion open

When a teenager is feeling anxious or depressed, they might not recognise the feelings for what they really are, thinking that there is something wrong with them, that they are being ‘weak’ or going ‘mad’. It is important that you educate first yourself, and then them on these conditions. For example, anxiety can often come alongside physical symptoms, such as feeling sick, a racing pulse and feeling clammy. Once the teen understands that what they are going through is normal, they are more likely to open up and speak to you, without being afraid of disappointing you.

Remain present

When it comes to teenagers, it is no surprise to adults that a lot of their lives are lived through their smartphone, tablet or laptop. Social media is a two-edged sword, in the sense that it does help us stay connected to friends, but in another it can impact a fragile self-esteem and be a place of unnecessary cruelty from peers. As you support a teen through anxiety or depression, it is important that you yourself remain present. Dedicate time to the both of you sitting down and talking or doing something fun, without the distractions of social media or emails from either of you. The teen will get a break from their screen and your undivided attention, which they need in order to open up to you.

Don’t forget about physical health

A lot of the time, mental health issues can be exacerbated by poor physical health, especially in teenagers, who may have irregular sleeping patterns, a lot of screen time and junk food. As an adult, you can make sure that they are getting enough physical exercise by suggesting activities that you can do together, or that they are going to sleep on time. Similarly, teenagers who are experiencing anxiety may also lose interest in food due to a lack of appetite, which is why it’s important that you keep track of their meals and nutrition.

Seek help

Often, it can be enough to ask your child what they think might help them to feel better and to implement the change. However, they may be unwilling to speak to you about their problems or they don’t know themselves what could help. It can be hard for a parent to know that they might not be able to help, so know when to seek professional help. If you are deeply concerned, you should visit your GP – your child can have a one-on-one meeting with them, or you can talk about your concerns and ask for some guidance.

 

Parenting can be demanding and stressful at times and it is essential that you look after your own mental health, as that can only have a positive impact on your family. Similarly, think about how you show your own emotions of anger and distress in front of your kids, as they are likely to take a lot of behavioural cues from you.

Try an app

Free-to-use apps like Remente provide teens with a way to access mental healthcare on the go. The app combines psychology with brain and mental training to help users reach their full potential, complete personal goals, and lead a healthier lifestyle. Teens can track their mood through the app, as well as undertake courses on stress management and goal setting.

 

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