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Teenage Mental Health Crisis: Red Flags to Watch Out For

Teenage Mental Health Crisis: Red Flags to Watch Out For

A lot of teenagers who suffer mentally and emotionally do not receive the treatment they need. Some of them are aware of their problem but are afraid to come forward and ask for help. This could be because of the enduring stigma on the teenage mental health crisis in our country. Proper treatment relies on identifying the problem early on. Here are the red flags that you as parents and friends should watch out for.

Tips to Build a Healthy Family Relationship

Mental Health Red Flags in Teens

Uncharacteristic Behavioral Changes

An abrupt change in behavior should always alert you that something’s going on with your adolescent.

For instance, when a friendly and sociable child suddenly gets into the habit of fighting with others, this may point to an unaddressed emotional issue.

Another red flag is when a generally responsible teenager develops problems in handling simple, daily activities.

Other behavioral red flags are:

  • Interest in alcohol, cigarette smoking, or drugs that were not present before
  • Tendencies to do dangerous or thrill-seeking activities
  • Speaking too fast to the point that it’s hard to understand them
  • Obsession with weight or physique
  • Drastic changes in school performance
  • Seeming lack of motivation with schoolwork and other activities

Parents know their kids best, so when it comes to their behavior, be on the lookout for actions that are uncharacteristic.

Mood Swings and Strong Emotions

In a teenage mental health crisis, changes in moods or emotions are often extreme that they disrupt the child’s daily routine. Examples of strong emotions include:

What’s alarming about these strong emotions is that while they are overwhelming, you may not see the cause that brought them on. It’s as if your teenager just suddenly developed them out of the blue.

Adolescents may experience strong emotions and mood swings due to puberty, hormonal changes, and as a general response to daily stresses. However, when these emotions affect relationships with family and friends, or when it affects how the adolescent tackle school work, then we need to take it as a red flag.

teenage mental health crisis

Problems with Social Connections

You can also find clues in your child’s social relationships.

Are they developing problems with their friends at school? Do they stay away from social activities? Do they appear withdrawn even with the family?

When your previously sociable teen suddenly wants a more isolated environment, they could be dealing with mental health issues.

A Decline in Academic Performance

A teenage mental health crisis also manifests in a child’s academic performance.

What can you say about your child’s grades? Is it declining? An adolescent who’s suffering from mental health issues often finds it hard to focus.

Furthermore, think back on the communications you’ve had with their teachers. Are they informing you of problems like late project submissions? Do they tell you that your child sometimes refuses to cooperate with their groupmates?

Little things like their declining exam scores and missed attendance can also give you an idea of whether or not they may need help in addressing a mental health issue.

Changes from Usual Patterns

To detect a problem, parents are advised to monitor their teenager’s daily patterns and habits.

If you notice some concerning changes, it could mean that your teen is already suffering from a mental health issue.

Look for:

Seeking Help

Parents will be able to respond better to their teens if they acknowledge the reason why they refuse to seek guidance.

Below are some of the most common reasons why adolescents resist getting help:

  • Fear that their parents may get angry for what and how they are feeling.
  • Feeling of hopelessness; they believe that they’re not going to get better.
  • Denial that there are issues. Teens sometimes feel that “it’s just the way they are.”
  • Being defensive because they fear that they will receive a “negative reaction.”
  • Feeling ashamed or embarrassed.

According to experts, identifying these reasons will help you “frame” or “tailor” your responses in a way that you will be able to convince your child to open up and accept treatment.

When to Seek Medical Help

Whether for yourself or a loved one, don’t hesitate to consult a doctor. Keep track of all the symptoms that you may have noticed and share them with the healthcare practitioner. It is also important to note that if the adolescent asks for professional help, that is a sign that we should help them get that help.

Moreover, it will also help if you talk to your child’s friends, classmates, and teachers. These pieces of information will help the doctor assess and diagnose your child’s mental health concerns.

teenage mental health crisis

Helping Teens with Their Mental Health Issues

If you suspect a teenage mental health crisis, you can help your child by:

  • Asking them how they are or checking in on them
  • Honestly telling them that you are worried and that you want to help them. Emphasize that you are there when they need you. They are not alone.
  • Explaining that even adults sometimes have problems they need help with. So there’s nothing wrong if they, too, will ask for help.
  • Leading them to articles or websites that talk about mental health illnesses, so that they can do their own data-gathering or fact-checking.
  • Not taking things personally. It will not help the situation if you blame yourself for your child’s mental health illness and symptoms.
  • Emphasizing that sometimes talking to adults can help put things into perspective. After all, adults can think of solutions that children have not encountered yet.
  • Involving them in how they will receive treatment. Ask them if they want to seek help and where they want to go. Also, talk them through that they could expect.

Key Takeaways

A teenage mental health crisis is a serious concern. When not addressed properly, this can lead to even more concerning risks such as substance abuse, violence, or even suicide. Don’t hesitate to seek medical help if you are worried about your teen’s behavior and mental well-being.

Learn more about Healthy Mind here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Warning Signs and Symptoms
Accessed September 14, 2020

Red Flags: Does Your Child Need Teen Mental Health Treatment?
Accessed September 14, 2020

Accessed September 14, 2020

Helping Resistant Teens Into Treatment
Accessed September 14, 2020

Mental illness in children: Know the signs
Accessed September 14, 2020

Pre-teen and teenage mental health
Accessed September 14, 2020

Worried about your teenager?
Accessed September 14, 2020

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Jan 27
Expertly reviewed by Melissa Nadine Caraan, M.D.