Teen mental health problems are on the rise in Utah and across the United States, making teen mental health awareness more important than ever. Knowing the difference between “normal” behavior and the warning signs of a mental health problem is the first and most vital step in getting your teens the support they need and deserve.
Why Is Teen Mental Health Awareness So Important?
Poor mental health can impact your teen’s life in many ways. Young people struggling with mental health issues can suffer poor grades, make harmful decisions, and damage their health. Many mental health problems are also accompanied by other harmful behaviors such as increased drug use, violence, and risky sexual behavior that can lead to unwanted pregnancy and STDs.
Because of their social and developmental stage of life, teenagers are especially vulnerable to mental health problems and suicidality. In fact, according to Dr. Carl Fleisher, MD, “Teenagers and young adults have the highest rates of suicide compared to other ages.”
Teen Mental Health Statistics in Utah
In 2020, suicide was the number one cause of death for young people ages 10 to 17 in Utah. In fact, Utah youth are vulnerable to some of the highest rates of suicide in the United States. The youth suicide rate here has more than tripled in the past two decades, and for every person in the US who dies from suicide, twice as many die in Utah.
Knowing the warning signs and how to distinguish “normal” behavior from mental health red flags can make all the difference to the teenagers in your life.
What’s “Normal” and What Should Cause Concern?
Being a teenager can be overwhelming. As a parent, you’ll support your child through a lot of big emotional and physical changes as their body goes through puberty and they navigate school, complex social situations, and big life decisions. It can be challenging to determine which of these changes are a normal part of growing up, and which are red flags signaling a deeper mental health issue.
In general, changes become problematic when they start to impact your teen’s ability to function normally. If something is impacting their school, work, relationships, or health, it’s time to seek help.
During adolescence, most teenagers become increasingly independent from their parents. It’s normal and healthy for them to become less reliant on you as they grow older and transition into adulthood.
However, if you notice your teen becoming socially isolated, it could be a sign of mental health problems. Spending some time alone is normal, but seek help if you notice your teenager is:
- withdrawn from their friend groups
- not communicating with family
- spending extended periods of time alone without activities
More Influence from Peers
Part of becoming more independent from parents typically includes taking more of their influence from their peers. Talking, dressing, and behaving more like their friends is a normal part of growing up. Especially in this age of social media, teen mental health can be heavily influenced by peers.
However, peer influence can sometimes be negative. Your teen may need help if they:
- Show radical or out-of-character changes to their opinions and values
- Are suddenly prone to outbursts or big emotions that they struggle to manage
- Are regularly experiencing turmoil in peer relationships that causes them high stress
The physical and emotional changes of puberty can be overwhelming, and it’s normal for teens to experience some sadness and moodiness. But, a mental health problem such as depression or anxiety could be the culprit if your teen frequently feels:
- sad, hopeless, or worthless
- anxious or worried
- out of control
Concerns About Body Image
During puberty, it’s typical for teenagers to become more conscious of their body image and appearance. Signs to look out for that they might be struggling with body image issues or an eating disorder and need additional mental health support include:
- sudden or excessive weight gain or loss
- binge eating
- an unhealthy attitude towards food
- obsessive dieting
- obsessive exercising
- frequent negative self-talk about their body
Sense of Right and Wrong
The teen years are often when people develop a strong sense of right and wrong. Feeling passionately about justice and injustice is a normal part of growing up.
However, your teenager might need mental health support if their sense of justice leads to fighting and other violence.
Where to Find Help: Teen Mental Health Treatment
If you’re concerned that your teen is suffering from mental health problems, help is available. Discovery Day Treatment is a local, certified teen mental health treatment center specializing in helping young people aged 13 to 17. Through our unique UPLIFT program, we provide support for Utah teens struggling with mental health challenges including depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, and poor family attachment. We’re here to help teens and their families navigate and grow from difficult issues, and provide you with the right tools to heal.