What Should You Do if Your Teen Has a Mental Illness

Parents usually don't ignore their teen's physical injury or any other disease. Yet, when it comes to teenagers' mental health, mental illness symptoms can be left untreated for months or years. This lack of treatment occurs when parents don't diagnose the signs and symptoms of teenage mental illness. On the other hand, parents might fear that their teenage will be considered "crazy" if they seek mental health professional help. But you can make your teen feel better with early intervention and proper treatment. If you navigate your teen with a mental illness, get immediate help.

The Risk of Not Seeking Help On-Time

Sometimes parents find it difficult to admit that their teen has a mental illness. But overlooking the problem for a long-time isn't likely to make it disappear. In fact, without getting proper treatment, your teen's mental health gets worse day by day.

Your teen may also be eager for self-medication without seeking the proper treatment. They might be addicted to drugs, alcohol, or other unhealthy habits to help reduce their mental burden. So we can say that self-medicating only adds more problems to your teen’s life rather than taking them away.

Mental issues left untreated can also increase a teen's risk of a suicide attempt. Many teens who attempt suicide to end themselves suffer from mental disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder.

Suicide is one of the top three reasons for death for people between 15 and 19. Teens planning to kill themselves may give some warning signs that they are stranded. If your teen talks about wanting to hurt themselves, don't ignore it. Don't think they are saying those words to get your attention. Consider these comments warning signs that your teens need immediate help.

Factors Impacting Teens' Mental Health


Environmental issues can impact teenagers' mental health. Traumatic events such as the history of abuse or near-death experiences may increase the teen's risk of developing mental health illness.

Growth and Development

Change in hormones and brain development during teenage may put teens at an increased risk of mental health issues. Some researchers have described this process as "moving parts get broken." When all the parts of the neural system don't develop properly, a teen may have a change in thinking, mood, and behaviour that leads to mental health issues.


Stress is another factor in mental illness. If your teen is being bullied at school or has pressure to perform well academically, they may be more vulnerable to mental health illnesses.

Mental Illness Prevalence in Teenagers

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 4.95% of teens experience mental illness between 13 and 18.

The most common mental health disorders in adolescents include:

  • Anxiety
  • ADHD
  • Eating disorders
  • Mood disorders
  • Major depression
  • Schizophrenia

Warning Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness

Differentiating a mental illness from hormonal changes, teenage stages, and normal mood swings can be a significant challenge. Therefore, it is essential to observe your teen's mood and behaviour, and if you find these changes interrupt their daily lives, this isn't normal.

Mental illnesses happen differently in different people. Some common signs and symptoms of teenage mental illnesses include but are not limited to:

Change in Sleep Habits:

Your teen may experience insomnia or start taking more naps after coming back to school. Wanting to be in bed all day or staying up all night can also be a mental health issue in teens.

Lack of Interest in Activities:

If your teen quits their most-liked activities or shows a lack of interest in spending time with friends or family, they may have a mental disorder.

Changes in Academic Performance:

Mental health problems often cause vivid changes in motivation to complete school work. If your teen lacks academic performance, it could be a sign of mental health disorder.

Severe Mood Changes:

Excessive weeping, unexpected anger, and a high level of irritability can also be signs of mental illness in teenagers.


An increased desire to live alone or excessive privacy may lead to mental health illnesses in teens.

If You Notice Warning Signs and Symptoms

If you see any warnings mentioned above signs in your teenager, it helps to remember that mental health issues are treatable. Moreover, a mental illness doesn’t mean your teen is crazy. It means that they need to pay attention to their mental health.

When you navigate mental illness, stay relaxed but go ahead with some serious action. Rather than spend months worrying about a problem, find out the ways how your teen can get benefits from the treatment.

How to Talk to Your Teen About Their Mental Health?

Talking about your teen's mental health may feel tough at first. But it is essential to speak with your teen about the problem you're noticing. Point out your observation and invite your teen's input. Be cautious not to declare that they are crazy or that their mental health condition is their mistake.

Here are some examples of things you might say to your teen:

  • I’ve noticed you're spending more time in your room and not hanging out with friends. I'm concerned about that.
  • You’re sleeping more than usual. I wonder if there might be something bothering you.
  • I see that you aren't doing much homework lately. I wonder if you aren't in the mood to deal with school or if something else is happening.

Don't be amazed when your teen says nothing is wrong. It’s not unusual for teenagers to feel embarrassed, ashamed, or confused by the symptom they’re suffering from.

Help Your Teen to Talk With Trusted People

Teens usually want to talk about their issues with someone other than their parents. So, in addition to talking to your teen, make sure they have other people in their life to talk about what they feel. For this, you can help your teen identify at least three trusted people they might be able to speak to about any problem or concerns.

Ask them: "If you had an issue and couldn't talk to me about it, who could you talk to?" Relatives, friends, teachers, counsellors, and friends’ parents might be the people they can talk to. Ensure that it's okay to bring up issues with trustworthy people.

It can also be a great time to ask, "Do you think it might be a good idea to have a professional to talk about?" Sometimes teens aren’t comfortable consulting a therapist but may welcome the idea if you suggest it first.

Mental Illness Treatment Option for Teens

Your teen may be referred to a mental healthcare professional such as a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker for a detailed check-up. Some mental health professionals provide written questionnaires or other screening tools for assessment, and others may get information from your teen's healthcare provider. If necessary, a mental health professional can recommend a proper diagnosis. They can also suggest the best treatment options, such as medication or talk therapy.

Get Support For Yourself

A teenager's mental health condition affects the whole family members. Therefore, it's imperative to seek support for yourself first if your teen has a mental illness. Speaking to other parents can help you stay mentally strong. Some parents find relaxation in getting emotional support from a cooperative parent. Others find it helpful to learn about community resources and educational options.