The media is full of stories and videos of teens and young adults talking about how they are struggling with mental health and while this is a step in the right direction, the problem is that many aren’t doing anything practical about it.
With social media taking over pretty much all teenagers and children, they are being exposed to people talking about their mental health, which, while some might be helpful, some content could encourage other things. It’s common for example, if they are listening to a content creator who has gone viral for being open about their depression and anxiety. They might think that because it is so common, it’s more like the norm and just existing with it is fine. Which should not be the case.
Although it is true that a lot of people, including adults like myself, struggle with anxiety and depression often, as it has become so widely spoken about now, we are all aware of the feelings, but talking about how to manage through specific triggers and helpful remedies isn’t spoken about or accepted within workplaces or healthcare. I am thankful for the fact that this subject is often spoken about, especially among women. I believe that I have grown up now and am not afraid to talk about when I’m feeling low, even when I can’t put my finger on why.
But there is still some shame in actually seeking help and not fixing it yourself. I feel like this comes in tenfold for teenage boys, with both talking and seeking help. There is action for this to change, but this hasn’t changed how some families are raising their teens. For example, my partner was raised by a father who never wore his heart on his sleeve so as a result, he became a young teenage boy who held everything in. Although he is lucky enough to have never suffered from severe depression, he does struggle with anxiety around even talking about his feelings.
This just brings to light the fact that we need to try to teach our children the basics of communication and not let their minds swallow them up from the inside. While this might be a learning curve for both you and your teenager, you will both only reap the benefits at the end of the journey.
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It’s not just social media that is affecting your teenagers, but the expectations from others such as the government, society and capitalism. From personal experience, I had always been scared, confused and depressed when I got into a hole thinking about becoming an adult I wasn’t even really allowed to enjoy my teens because I was being pushed to figure out what I wanted to be and convinced that if I didn’t do well in school, I wouldn’t get a good job and I would have a terrible life, which is just not true.
As a teenager, you have all these pressures from every angle and they are typically sensitive during these times. They have enough going on mentally with hormones and are just generally trying to figure out who they are and find their place within society. If I could give any advice to parents who are raising their teenagers now, it would be to have a strong support system. As a woman who was once a teenager on social media platforms and who, like many, has gone through some of the pressures put on teenagers, I can give some of what I wish my parents did.
Teens who are depressed often distance themselves from their friends and the things they used to enjoy. However, depression is exacerbated when a teen is alone, so try to help them re-establish their connection.
Give face-time top attention. Set aside time each day for conversation with your teen—a time when you can be fully present without any outside distractions or attempts at multitasking. Reducing your teen’s depression can be greatly aided by the simple act of making face-to-face connections fun and well sought after again. It could be as simple as inviting them on a little day for some shopping. You could brighten your daughter’s day with a thoughtful gift for her or a gift for your son that just lets him know you are thinking of him. Just show them that they are important to you.
Additionally, keep in mind that while discussing depression or your teen’s feelings won’t make things worse, your support will be crucial to their recovery. This might not seem like it to them, so try to limit their usage of social media. Tell your teenager that having conversations with people in person is still preferable to using social media. Urge them to switch off their phone, or at least disable the notifications, when they are going to bed, working on a project, or interacting with others face-to-face.
Mental health and physical health go hand in hand. Inactivity, insufficient sleep, and a poor diet all worsen depression. Unfortunately, junk food consumption, staying up late, and spending countless hours on phones and other electronics are among the bad habits associated with teenagers. But by creating a wholesome, encouraging atmosphere at home, parents can counteract these habits.
Make your teenager move! Get your teen moving—whatever it takes—as exercise is crucial for mental health. Teenagers should ideally engage in at least an hour of physical activity each day, but it doesn’t have to be tedious or depressing. Think creatively: riding a bike, skateboarding, hiking, dancing, shooting hoops, walking the dog, and so on are all beneficial as long as they involve movement.
For teens who are depressed, support and positive lifestyle adjustments can be life-changing, but they are not always sufficient. Don’t be afraid to get professional assistance when depression is severe from a mental health specialist with advanced training and a solid background in treating teenagers.
Consult your teen whenever you choose a specialist or pursue treatment options. Make decisions without consulting your teen or disregarding their preferences if you want them to be motivated and involved in their care. No single type of therapy works for everyone, and no therapist is a miracle worker. Look for a better fit if your child is uncomfortable or is simply not “connecting” with the psychiatrist or psychologist.