ILLUSTRATION BY MARY LONG' "Mental health problems in teens can sometimes take unexpected forms. Depression and anxiety can manifest as irritability and noncompliance, which parents may reasonably view as disrespect and laziness. Understanding what is beneath those behaviors is challenging. Teens are quite secretive, so they may not disclose the extent of their struggles."
More than 44% of teens reported persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness in the first half of 2021, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The early 2022 report, which was based on an online survey, also found that nearly 20% had seriously considered suicide, and 9% attempted suicide.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a likely contributor to these startling figures, but rates of teen mental illness have been rising over the past decade.
One crucial factor that has received little attention in supporting teen mental health is the role parents can play.
This is surprising, since research has clearly established that participation by a caregiver in their child’s mental health treatment is directly related to a successful outcome. A key reason for this is that parents generally interact with their teen on a daily basis and can model and cultivate coping skills.