Mental health & your teen: red flags & tips

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 2 Nov 2021

Adolescence is a time of many changes and challenges and can be a trying period for teenagers. While it’s normal for teens to be moody and unmotivated at times, it is essential to note the telltale signs of mental health issues. It’s important to state that teen moods are normal and not all behavioural changes in teens indicate mental health concerns; however, if you notice the following signs in your child for more than a few weeks, it may be worth seeking external support.

  • Appearing sad and withdrawn for more than two weeks 
  • Severe mood swings 
  • Drastic changes in behaviour, like a lack of interest in things that usually excite your child 
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Unusually irritable 
  • Displays explosive anger 
  • Has trouble sleeping 
  • Weight loss 
  • Using drugs or alcohol 
  • Avoiding school or suddenly doing badly in school 
  • Engaging in self-harm 
  • Avoiding friends or any form of social activity 
  • Getting into trouble with the law

What to do if you suspect your teen has a mental health issue

If you are worried about your teen’s mental health, speak to your child. Difficult conversations are not the most enjoyable to have, but they are crucial to help you understand what’s troubling your child. It also allows your child to know that they are not alone.

When talking to your child about mental health, it is essential to remain calm and open. Let them know that they can speak to you about any problems, and it’s not unusual for teens to feel upset or stressed. Avoid interrupting or being critical and judgmental when your child is opening up to you about their troubles. Most of the time, teenagers are not expecting you to solve their problems; they just need a listening ear and a safe space to vent their frustrations.

However, if you find that speaking to your child isn’t helping or you’re unsure what to do, it may be time to get professional help. Mental health issues are unlikely to go away on their own, so it’s essential to seek appropriate support and treatment as soon as possible. A trusted GP is a good place to start. At Osler we see many teenagers and are considered a ‘safe space’ for adolescents who wish to unload. If required, we have a strong network of health professionals that we regularly work with for co-partnering in ongoing care.

How to promote good mental health in your teen

Parents play an important role in promoting good mental health in their children. Here are some ways that you can support your teen’s mental wellness:

  • Check-in with your child regularly on how they’re feeling and the things that are happening in their life. Even if you get the door slammed in your face 99 times, perhaps the 100th time is the moment your teen is ready to talk. And you are there for them. 
  • Listen attentively to what your child tells you, and look out for any behavioural changes out of the norm. Let them speak and try not to interrupt and find solutions. 
  • Make it a point to spend quality time together every week. You can cook a meal, bake some cookies or do some exercise together. 
  • Encourage your child to talk about their feelings with you.
  • Don’t be afraid to show love and affection to your child. Hug them to show you love them!
  • Make sure that your child is physically healthy. This includes ensuring that your child is keeping active, maintaining healthy eating habits, getting regular sleep and avoiding alcohol and drugs. 
  • Work on your own mental wellbeing so that you can be a role model for your child.

When a child develops a mental health condition, know that it is not anyone’s fault. Everyone has their fair share of ups and downs in life, and it is normal to feel like we are struggling at times. There’s no shame in seeking help for your child, either! In fact, the sooner you get help, the easier it is to tackle the mental health issue.

If you find that your child is grappling with mental health concerns, let Osler Health’s kind and experienced doctors in Singapore help. You can also refer to our teen mental health factsheet for more information on managing youth mental health.

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