6 Ways to Help Your Teen with Mental Health

6 Ways to Support Teens and Mental Health

May was Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s over now, but it shouldn’t be. I’m not a medical professional or anything even close, but I am convinced that every person on the planet (no matter age, economic status, profession, race, or gender) is vulnerable to events that can alter their state of mind. If you’re not sure about this, just research the increase in the amount of people seeking psychological help due to the pandemic, then try getting an appointment with a therapist or counselor that doesn’t require weeks or months on a wait list.

There are so many things damaging our mental health that we don’t even realize. Add underlying issues not yet detected and undiagnosed…it’s a bad situation made worse, and the need for support more urgent. Many teens are struggling with mental health issues right now and many of us don’t even know it. How could we? Not too many teens feel comfortable talking to adults about ‘their stuff’ and mental health issues can also be so complex that it’s difficult for adults to know and understand, let alone try to articulate it to someone as a teenager.

For years my three kids have felt comfortable talking to me. I’m a very understanding and accepting mom. We have a very open relationship; they know there isn’t anything we can’t discuss (anything). But that wasn’t enough when it came to my son’s mental health. My teenager struggled the first three years of high school. He hated school, bad attitude at home, lots of issues. I’d done everything with him that I did when parenting his two older sisters…nothing worked! I read books about parenting boys, changed my language and approach, tried everything. Nothing worked. By junior year, I prayed he’d enlist in the military, move to his father’s, or just get out. But, at the same time I loved him and wanted to help him. I was at wits end; even willing to let him quit school. He was miserable and not himself. It broke my heart and exhausted me at the same time.

Then, by a stroke of luck, I came across a program with an app to help treat teen depression. We were so desperate, I asked him if he’d be interested in trying it. He agreed. That app was the start of help for us.

Since last spring, he been on a brave journey to find out what makes him tick (or crash) and has had the courage to talk to others about it (most recently he did an interview with CBS Cleveland). The program he participated in, SparkRx, has now made it into doctor’s and counselor’s offices throughout the nation.  

Over the last year I have watched him become more of himself again, enroll in a welding program at the local community college, he just finished his senior year (with passing grades he can be proud of) and will graduate high school! He has been able to achieve the things that I knew he could, and he has returned to the boy (and young man) I knew he was destined to be. I cannot discuss this topic without a waterfall of tears.

Seeing him get back on an even keel didn’t just make me happy, it inspired me. Five months ago, at 48, I sought professional help for major focus issues that were practically debilitating. It seemed like out of nowhere, I just couldn’t get out of my own way. Since my ADHD diagnosis in December, I have felt so much better. It’s been a wonderful relief. And if it weren’t for my son, I would not be on the road to success. With our diagnosis we can now give ourselves permission to be who we are, with what we have, because we can understand it, and we aren’t alone. It’s been such a freeing journey that we are now trying to help others by sharing our story and experience.

Teens can feel alone quite often, whether it be in school, with peers or siblings, and especially with their parents. How would anyone else know how they really feel? Imagine walking around like that for years. My son did. How many other kids are? I wish I’d gotten diagnosed decades ago for my issues. My childhood would have been much different and much better. Waiting to address mental health until we are older makes things so much more difficult. It doesn’t have to be that way. Some kids don’t get a chance to get help because they wind up feeling so isolated and alone, fearful and discouraged that they take their own lives. That is not the outcome we want. There are some things that parents can do to become a trusted confidant (a safe place) for their kids. Here are 6 of them:

1.      Know your teen’s behaviors and be aware of changes in them or their habits.

2.      Don’t be afraid to gently mention to your teen if you notice a change, do a check-in to see how they’re feeling (about anything).

3.      Don’t be afraid to ask how you can help.

4.      Try to understand all the pressures teens are up against and recognize if/how you play a part in those pressures.

5.      Practice telling them that you love them, no matter what…your love is unconditional, and you’ll always be there for them.

6.      REPEAT STEPS 1-5 DAILY IF YOU HAVE TO EVEN IF THEY SEEM DISINTERESTED IN TALKING…AT LEAST THEY KNOW YOU’LL BE THERE WHEN THEY ARE. (THIS MIGHT BE THE MOST IMPORTANT.)

Teens fear judgement and are always seeking acceptance (from everyone everywhere) trying to measure up, achieve, and please. We don’t want them to think we do not accept them, or worse judge them or not love them.

I feel very lucky that my son didn’t do half the things he thought about doing…we could have wound up the unlucky ones. We do not know what lies underneath those busy stressed-out teens.  Mental health issues are real, and they can affect anyone. Spark was the thread that we truly believe was a lifeline for my son…in a time of need, and while we figured things out and then got additional professional help.

If you notice anything odd about your teen, don’t ignore it. Contact your pediatrician, ask for help. I’m not afraid to talk about this, because the cost of being quiet is too high.

What is SparkRx?SparkRx is a free program that was made to support your teen or young adult (aged 13-22) in their fight against depression. Through a 5-week self-guided mobile app, the program delivers core components of cognitive-behavioral therapy and teaches the following skills to help teens manage their symptoms: psychoeducation, mood tracking, mindfulness, problem-solving, and activity scheduling.


How to get access to SparkRx: To use it, you’ll need your teen’s doctor to register as an authorized provider with Limbix. They can do this by going to SparkRx.com and filling out a simple, secure web form. Once your doctor does that, they will receive an access code for SparkRx, which they can then give your teen so they can begin using SparkRx.

Here are some more resources:

Enjoying the outdoors this spring where water sources are Justice’s favorite places to explore.

CBS piece on SparkRx April 27, 2022

(My son’s CBS interview is scheduled to air on Wednesday, May 25th, the day he graduates from high school. There will be a dual celebration that night.)

NAMI – National Alliance of Mental Illness

More Videos of information, education, and testimony about mental health

Video Testimony from a mother

MHNational-Self Assessment Test Tool

NY Times Article with Resources and answers to parent questions.

Family Matters with Amber Blogsite Home

 

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Many of you enjoy reading both the blog and column written by Family Matters with Amber. The main blog site and this site have the same content, except Blogger is where the blog began, so I will be only maintaining that one. What this means is that you can still read all of the awesome parenting content you love, but if you are getting updates and emails from this site, you will no longer, so please hop over to the Blogger site and sign up to follow that one! Again, it’s the same content. Hurry there and sign up to get updates before this post/site expires!

CHANGE IS INEVITABLE: COLLEGE IS OPTIONAL (Column Related)

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baby laughing over white background active one year old child by david castillo dominici via freedigitalphotos.net

So, as reality continues to roll, so do the thoughts of how life is always changing.

My daughter and I are off to college orientation.

Wow, how cool…and unbelievable.

It’s been an amazing ride for her and I. All of these almost 19 years…
We are truly enjoying our last few months together! I think we are certainly holding onto what we have left…laughs, sarcasm, movie watching, hugs and kisses, coffee stops and planning out the next four years.

She’d tell you she is also holding on to home cooked meals. Lol.

This month’s County Kids column, on page 4, is a tear jerker (for me, that is).
It’s also a reminder that nothing in parenting stays the same:

Kids progress through stages- bad and good
Kids’ needs change
Not all parenting strategies work all the time (we have to evolve)
Not all sunny days stay sunny
Not all stormy days stay stormy
Kids are constantly growing (and not just in shoe and appetite size)
If you are going through a great parenting stage, savor it. But, if you are struggling through a bad parenting stage, read lots of books, lean on patience (and prayer- if you do that) and on veteran parents for advice…and savor it…because it’s all going to change.

Ask me how I know.

Since I have not posted here on WP in some time, you can follow regularly and find many updated posts from this year at: http://familymatterswithamber.blogspot.com

My Family Matters with Amber Blog and Our February Photo Challenge

So, I don’t post hère anymore. Just because over the years I’ve realized that most readers are reading my Family Matters with Amber blog on Blogger more than here. It’s not fun (or time efficient) to post twice each time I have something new to say.

So, something had to go. But the blog itself has to stay.

If you want to view my current posts (most recently they’ve been about our February Photo Challenge) please visit me at www.familymatterswithamber.blogspot.com, where common sense, emotional intelligence and maybe even a bit of sarcasm will hopefully inspire you 🙂 See you there!

– Amber

Fun Friday: Halloween Recipes That Will Gross You Out!!

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Big Sisters Who Think They’re Scary – and Little Sisters Who Think They Aren’t…

Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. I like it because it’s all about fun! And we can dress up! And the colors are divine!

The food however, is not my favorite part, but it might be yours!

Since I’m always looking for more recipes to try, and Halloween is just around the corner, I thought I would share this list of GROSS RECIPES (shown as a google search so that you can pick your poison when it comes to where you get your recipe from:) –

KITTY LITTER CAKE (you have to at least look at it)

DIRT CAKE (popular,yummy)
I made mine with just this stuff: Chocolate Pudding, Crushed Oreos, Worms and Chocolate Cake….and minus all the other complicated ingredients! dirt cake ingredients Cream cheese? REALLY? Nope…dirt cake completeDidn’t use it.

SEVERED FINGERS IN A BUN (yep, they look real and grossed each of my kids out- and that’s sometimes hard to do)

BRAIN DIP ANYONE?

My personal easy favorite? It’s nice and easy: Smiley Fries with Ketchup on their head (looks like blood- and yes I corrupted my children by telling them this). I googled to see if there was a photo of this anywhere and there IS! Here’s one courtesy of a blog called On the Road Photography!

Okay, so truth be told, I might have grown up watching horror flicks however, I don’t promote any mean, harmful things on others…I just have a sense of humor and “It’s Halloween Mom!”. Believe it or not, I’m still that parent who won’t allow my kids to play with play guns, swords or knives.

Go figure.

Check out Pinterest for more disgusting recipes! (Some great adult ones too! I like the cut out stomach of the baby doll for green dip!)