This Mental Health Day, Check Up on Your At-Risk Friends and Family

As the World Health Organization’s 2018 Mental Health Day came to a close last night, the WHO expressed their concern for a new group’s mental health–teenagers. In a press release dated October 10, 2018, they expressed their concern for the well-being of the teenage and young adult population, stressing the need to teach resilience to these at-risk groups. But what can you, as a concerned parent, friend, or caregiver do to keep tabs on the teenagers closest to you? Read on to find out!

See the Signs and Symptoms

Although each category of disorder (‘mood,’ ‘eating,’ or ‘personality’ disorders, for example) has different symptoms, many have similar impacts on young teens. Some signs of mental illness that are prevalent across the lines of these illnesses are anger, isolation, impulsive behavior, and unexplainable physical diseases. Although some of these aren’t related to mental illness, it is especially important to keep tabs on anyone experiencing multiple symptoms or experiencing any of these symptoms severely. Statistically, one in five teenagers ages 13-18 does or is going to have a mental illness, and on average wait between eight and 10 years from the onset of symptoms to the first stage of intervention. Break the cycle and make a point to intervene when you first see the signs.

Question, Persuade, Refer 

If a teenager or young adult close to you express suicidal ideation, reckless behavior, increased drug and alcohol use, extreme mood swings, or increased risk-taking, all warning signs of suicide, sit them down and have a conversation with them. Talk about how much you care about them, what resources are out there, and how they can seek help– but ask them questions about their experience, too! One method, called the question, persuade, refer (or QPR method,) can be a great set of guidelines to keep the conversation focused and clear. There are certifications available if you don’t know where to start with QPR.

What to Do in a Suicide Emergency 

If a teen or young adult begins to give away essential possessions, talk about ‘leaving,’ or start to take bigger and bigger risks, they are at extraordinary risk of committing suicide and should see a mental health professional immediately. These symptoms and the potential outcome are no joke– suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers. If you are in a suicide emergency, you may not have the time to refer young loved ones to a mental health professional. Instead, call a suicide hotline and have the trained professionals on the other end of the call talk to your teen or young adult. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or opt to use a suicide hotline specific to a group or organization, like the Trevor Project hotline for LGBT+ youth, or a suicide hotline specific to people of color or survivors of sexual assault.

Do you have a story about how mental health has impacted someone close to you? Do you want to share more resources that we missed for teens and young adults in danger? Let us know by leaving a comment down below!

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