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Denying mental health in adolescents

by Mirelle Zamudio
Tahoe Youth & Family Services

Graduation, getting a driver’s license, and puberty, all milestones of the adolescent years. With the expected biological, emotional and mental change, it’s easy to underestimate just how much adolescents must cope with. As moods and appetites consistently change, it can be difficult to notice if an adolescent is experiencing any mental or emotional distress. However, noticing any change in the mental health condition of adolescents is important for early intervention and treatment.

Many parents may deny their child is experiencing distress or have an illness due to the stigma of having a mental health issue. The hope that their adolescent will “grow out” of a mental health illness increases the risk of isolation and fear for the family.

A family’s emotional response to a mental illness can take many forms and are a continuous process. Parents may question their ability as a parent, experience guilt, uncertainty, grief, confusion, blame and bewilderment. While there is no “right” way to respond or cope with having a mental health illness in the family, parents should be aware of the negative effects on adolescents if a mental health issue is left untreated.

Symptoms of a mental health issue in adolescents are not always evident, have cyclical periods, and can vary in impact; they may also hide symptoms because of expectations. While seeking professional help is key for the wellbeing of the family, educating oneself as much as possible is the greatest opportunity to be able to understand and cope with the different emotions parents and adolescents are experiencing. Talking and listening openly with adolescents, their school, mentors, and mental health professionals about a mental health issue will help balance the daily lives of both parents and their children.

As mental health providers, Tahoe Youth & Family Services (TYFS) remains open and offers counseling and support services through video calls using Telehealth. Being responsive to the mental health needs of adolescents and their parents will allow for healthy development. If you want to make an appointment for counseling for your adolescent or yourself, call Tahoe Youth & Family Services at (530) 541-2445 or (775) 782-4202. Information on services is also available on their website at tahoeyouth.org.