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If you watched the hit Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” either alone or with your teen, you know that mental health issues aren’t the sole reserve of adults. Young people can and do suffer mental health crises — a good reason why to look after mental health in your children.
Preventing tragedy is only one reason to keep tabs on your child’s emotional state. Their feelings drive their behaviors, and the choices they make now can have lifelong implications. Here are six reasons why you should look after your child’s mental health.
1. Teen Suicide Rates Continue Rising
Even a single teen suicide is too many. However, numbers were already on the rise before the pandemic. They soared over the last two years, with a 22% increase in emergency room visits due to attempts. Over half of all adolescent girls between the ages of 12 and 17 made at least one attempt.
Parents should avoid dismissing statements such as, “everyone would be better off if I were not here,” as cries for attention. They are — but failing to heed them could result in tragedy.
You can help your teen by modeling healthy behavior. If your children see you working through problems methodically and reaching out for help, they will be more likely to follow suit. Keep closer tabs on youth with a history of depression or other mental health problems and seek professional help if you fear your child might attempt suicide.
Parents also should carefully consider whether they keep a gun in the home. Teens who attempt suicide by firearm are more likely to succeed in their efforts. If you do choose to have weapons, please keep them safely locked away and maintain control of the keys.
2. Youth Violence Is an Ongoing Problem
Another result of the ongoing mental health crisis among youth in America is an uptick in violence. Nearly every week brings news of another mass shooting. 2021 alone saw 34 school shootings, even though many districts went to modified distance learning amid the pandemic.
Gun violence isn’t the only problem caused by a child’s mental health woes. Untreated mental health conditions contribute to bullying behavior, which in turn creates depression and anxiety in other teenagers. Members of the LGBTQ+ community, for example, run an elevated risk of becoming bullying targets, and many go on to attempt suicide because of their mistreatment.
2. Anxiety and Depression Cripple Academic Progress
Mental disorders like anxiety and depression can wreak havoc on academic progress. Anxiety can make your child feel like they’re never doing enough, but depression or becoming overwhelmed can lead to paralysis. They may leave assignments they could otherwise complete unfinished because they can’t muster the emotional energy to push through the project.
A little pressure is positive, but parents should avoid putting undue academic stress on their children. Instead of punishing them for bad grades, they should try to discover the reason why their child’s performance began to suffer. It could be something as simple as needing glasses — or it could require psychiatric intervention.
3. Teen Substance Use Can Hinder Future Plans
Some parents think, “I experimented with alcohol at my teen’s age — what’s the harm?” Please don’t fall into this trap. Various substances cause biochemical changes in your child’s brain that can stunt their development. Even things like cannabis, beneficial for many adults, can cause harm if used by those under 25.
Many states have harsher penalties for those convicted of underage DUI, including lengthy license suspensions that can hinder their working ability. Additionally, universities consider such infractions when making admissions decisions and a record can disqualify teens from certain professions.
4. Diet and Exercise Habits Tend to Stick for Life
The diet and exercise habits your children form during adolescence often stick with them for life. Research indicates that teenagers who engage in healthy fitness activities tend to control their weight better and remain more active as adults.
However, the tumultuous teen years are also when many develop a dysfunctional relationship with food. One in ten teenage girls suffers from an eating disorder, and boys are catching up in numbers.
5. The Children Are Our Future
The overarching philosophical reason that you should look after your child’s mental health boils down to pragmatic reality. Today’s youth will someday run things — it’s in society’s best interest to ensure they are emotionally well-adjusted when they take over the helm.
Mentally healthy teenagers tend to develop into well-adjusted adults. Identifying problematic behavioral patterns and addressing them early means teens enter adulthood with the coping skills they need to positively address life’s ups and downs and make the best decisions possible.
Reasons Why You Should Look After Your Child’s Mental Health
Mental health disorders can strike at any age. Parents owe it to their children to keep tabs on their emotional well-being. Doing so can prevent academic struggles and potential legal trouble, even prevent tragedy. The above six reasons outline why you should look after your child’s mental health and seek professional intervention when necessary.