We must learn to navigate a teenager’s mind

Teenage brain health

Most parents or mentors who work with teens may at times wish that they could read a teenager’s mind. It becomes even more challenging when we encounter a teenage brain health issue.

The following quote from an unknown author may summarize what adults may think when working with a teen:

“It would be easier to help depressed teens if they were nicer to be around.”

It is difficult to work with depressed teens but we need to push for open dialog about the challenges they are facing. We must also quickly walk away from older ways of thinking that tell us to stay quiet about things like teenage brain health or depression. The health and recovery of a young person dealing with brain health issues may rest in our quick diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

Parents and mentors need to learn about the most obvious trouble signs. Although it may be tempting to assume that we misread a sign, it’s much better to assume we saw it correctly and take action. Even if we turn out to be wrong, it’s best to be wrong than to ignore what could become a serious problem in the life of a young person.

There is access to brain health screening that can help us prevent or treat issues such as:

  1. violence,
  2. eating disorders,
  3. drug & alcohol abuse, and
  4. various other dangers threatening youth

Observation is the first step

Observation of the dynamics between kids and their friends can often help us identify signs of potential violence. Once we spot a particular behavior, we must take action to fully identify the issue and put a plan in place to address it.

We especially need to be on the lookout for signs of teenage depression which may be manifested with different symptoms than adult depression. Some behaviors to observe are:

  1. tendency to withdraw,
  2. increased irritability,
  3. relentless self-criticism,
  4. frustration,
  5. anger,
  6. changes in sleep and appetite,

For younger children:

  1. unexplained pains (commonly abdominal pain),
  2. whininess,
  3. sleep disorders,
  4. clinginess

There is more to brain health prevention than loving a young person and telling them so. Showing love is very important but we must go beyond to help the kids under our care.

Parenting and mentoring can be very rewarding when we take immediate action. Become familiar with the following resources and be quick to act. There are many other good resources out there; take some time to research them and take advantage of them.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – free & confidential 24/7 crisis worker
  • http://www.sprc.org/resources-programs/after-suicide-toolkit-schools – practical road map for a difficult time
  • https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/take-a-course/find-a-course/  (look for the purple-YOUTH designation) – hands-on training to recognize signs of addiction and mental health distress (eight-hour course)
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