Though it is sometimes a taboo subject, mental illness affects many people of all ages and walks of life. Two of the most common mental illnesses that especially afflict teens are depression and anxiety. Diagnosed or undiagnosed, teenage depression and anxiety vastly affect every day life.
Having a family member with a mental illness takes its toll on everyone, but some ways of handling the situation are much better than others.
1. Validate Your Teenager's Feelings
The best strategy is to firstly acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings. This helps to create an environment within your household where your teen can feel safe expressing and even just feeling their feelings.
If your teen doesn't feel comfortable having a frank discussion with you about what they're going through, they will start to warm up to the idea once you let them know that you care and acknowledge that their feelings are important.
2. Understand That Depression and Anxiety Are Not Their Fault
Mental illness is often irrational and can make people act in irrational ways. This can be frustrating, but you have to understand that this is not the fault of your teen. It is the fault of the chemical imbalance in your teen’s brain. Let your teen know that you sympathize with them, and that you understand what they are going through (because you were there once too!).
3. Offer Professional Help
Another important step to helping your teen with depression or anxiety is to offer them the opportunity to see a professional (if money is an issue, schools almost always offer social workers, if not psychologists). Even if you are the most amazing parent in the world, you cannot offer the help to your teen that a professional psychologist or psychiatrist can. Your teen may decline the offer, but letting them know that the offer is there may help them know that you are on their side and want them to feel their very best. This also opens the possibility for your teen to take you up on this offer once they feel they need it.
The best tip of all is compassion. Having a support system is essential to beating mental illness and letting your teen know that you want to be a part of that support system is one of the best things a parent can do.