As medical experts are gaining more understanding of mental illnesses, diagnoses and treatments are becoming more common. Chances are, teens will encounter someone in their friends or family groups with a mental disorder, and parents can help them learn more about these conditions by holding discussions early and frequently.
Teens and Mental Disorders
Mental disorders can be confusing and even scary for teens who don’t know much about them. Teens may also react strongly to people or situations concerning mental disorders when they don’t understand it. Whether they ignore, avoid, bully, tease or get stressed about their interactions with others with mental disorders, teens may take the wrong approach through ignorance on the subject. Armed with knowledge, teens can have the resources they need to help others as well as themselves in embracing life with mental disorders.
It can be difficult for parents to bring up the subject of mental disorders with teens. Many teens don’t want to discuss unpleasant issues or things that make them feel uncomfortable. However, with more than 42 million Americans diagnosed with mental disorders, chances are they are already acquainted with someone suffering from it. Information and understanding can change teen attitudes and help them react and interact appropriately.
Teen Talking Points
Compare physical disorders like diabetes or high blood pressure to mental disorders in that there are just some conditions that people are born with and must live with through no fault of their own.
Share statistics about the number of people who have been diagnosed with mental disorders, showing them that it is not uncommon.
Discuss some of the more prevalent mental disorders, like anxiety, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia and so forth and how that affects a person’s behavior and abilities.
Stress that not all mental illnesses are the same and there are a wide range of symptoms, causes and so forth. Discussing the traits of various conditions can help teens recognize them in others or themselves.
Look at the treatments available for different conditions, like counseling, medication, therapeutic boarding schools and so forth, emphasizing that mental disorders are highly treatable and allow people to be productive and healthy.
Dispel any myths, rumors, stereotypes and stigmas associated with people and mental disorders, especially that they are no less of a person for having a condition.
Find context for the teenager, such as a family member, friend or community member who suffers from a mental disorder and talk about how that person is doing.
Keep the discussion age appropriate for teens and
Share resources on where the teen can learn more information about mental disorders.
Be open to answering questions immediately or in the future that the teen may have about mental disorders.
Above all, teens must be taught by their parents that mental disorders are commonly diagnosed, highly treatable and nothing to be ashamed about, afraid of or ignored. With the right information on mental disorders, teens will be better able to interact with a number of people and accept them for their differences while celebrating all they have in common.