How to Talk to Teens about Getting Mental Health Help
The Centers for Disease Control reports about 17% of kids ages 12-17 have received mental health treatment, taken medication for their mental health, or received counseling or therapy from a mental health professional in the past year. With so many teens seeking help, why is it still so hard to even have a conversation about the topic?
Centuries of misunderstanding about mental health, mistreatment of patients, and wild depictions in pop culture certainly complicate things. It’s no wonder teens whose worldview is still being shaped are reluctant to talk about getting mental health help.
Here are some tips to talk to your teen about getting help:
- Get ahead of the issue by bringing attention to the words “crazy” and “insane.” If your teen is using them, use it as a door to open up a conversation about how one in five people are living with mental illness. Our neighbors, family members, and friends may be experiencing mental illness, and it does not seem fair to use those words to describe negative or dramatic situations.
- Be open about your own mental health and be honest. Share how mental health has impacted you or someone you know.
- Keep lines of communication open. Checking in with your child consistently, even if they don’t want to talk at that moment, opens the door and creates the space for them to open up. Here are more some tips on how to do that.
- Emphasize that therapy doesn’t mean there is “something wrong with you,” but that is 100% okay to not be okay.
- Talk about how the benefit of talking to an unbiased party–someone who does not know your family or friend circle. A mental health professional will bring objective perspectives, compassion, and expertise to help you.
- Tell your teen that they are not being punished or judged by getting help.
- Give them your full attention. Don’t interrupt their comments or questions. Ask questions to clarify their comments or questions.
If your teen will not engage in a conversation with you, be patient and keep trying. Let them know you want to make sure they are okay. If they won’t talk to you, ask if they would agree to talk to someone else who your teen trusts such as a school counselor, family member, or close friend. If concern continues to grow, then ask someone who you trust (counselor, teacher, close friend, etc) and who will support your teen’s privacy to talk to your teen about getting help.
UpStreet is a mental wellness program that offers free drop-in consultations with therapists, scheduled therapy appointments, text-based peer support, and support groups for teens ages 12-22. UpStreet aims to reduce the stigma of seeking mental health support, to avoid escalation of symptoms to a crisis stage, and enhance teens’ quality of life. Reach out to an UpStreet team member now using the chat bot located at the bottom of the page.