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The need is critical. Research shows nearly half of all lifetime cases of mental illness start by age 14, says the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). And in the U.S., 1 in 6 young people ages 6-17 experience a mental health issue each year.
Mental illness is a common health problem. It can affect a person's thinking, feeling, actions or mood. These health problems deeply impact day-to-day living and relating to others. But many people are scared to talk about them.
Parents and others can help support young people. The key is to be intentional about engaging with them. Give them safe spaces to show their true selves. Give them a chance to talk about how they’re really doing, says NAMI.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says mentally healthy children and teens have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school and in their communities. They reach developmental and emotional milestones and learn healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems.
Anxiety and depression are common issues for children and teens. But they often won’t share their worries. So parents need to be on the lookout for issues.
Keep an eye out for how they’re feeling. Learn the warning signs of possible problems:
Look for ways to offer the support they may need. Start by asking open-ended questions. Some questions you might try are:
It’s OK if their answers seem short. The goal is to keep talking. Check in with them often.
Listen to your teen. Try hard to grasp their feelings and show you care. Remember:
Work to help them build resilience and coping methods. Being able to deal with changes and challenges is a sign of good mental health. If the steps you take on your own aren’t enough, talk with your child’s doctor. They may be able to help or suggest a qualified therapist, counselor or psychologist.
If a child or teen is showing signs of self-harm or suicidal behaviors, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can help. You can call, text or chat 988 from anywhere in the U.S. Help is available 24/7.
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