Information For Parents and Carers: Looking After Your Child’s Mental Health

It is often difficult to detect the difference between normal teenage behaviour, such as occasional moodiness and irritability, and an emerging mental health problem. Often in Term 2 we see an escalation in the number of students experiencing stress, anxiety or depression due to increased workload, friendship changes, family conflict/changes, assessments and exams. If a young person is going through a difficult time, it is important that they get the support from family, friends and health professionals if required.

Good mental health is about being able to study and work to your full potential, cope with day to day life stresses and be able to live in a satisfying and meaningful way. Despite the fact that emotions such as feeling down, tense or angry are normal emotions for young people, if they persist for long periods and interfere in daily functioning it can be part of a mental health problem. As a result, their ability to function at school and in their personal relationships may be affected.

Warning Signs:

  • Reduced enjoyment and participation in activities they used to enjoy
  • Withdrawing or isolating (i.e. spending significant time in their room)
  • Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Easily irritated or angry for no reason
  • Underperforming or not attending school
  • Poor motivation
  • Lowered self-esteem
  • Increased risky behaviours i.e. drugs, alcohol, acting out, self-harm.
  • Difficulties with concentration and focus
  • Unusually stressed, worried, down or crying for no reason
  • Expressing negative, distressing or unusual thoughts
  • Prolonged and persistent low mood, moodiness or irritability

How to help:

  • Keep communication open
  • Show empathy and avoid judgement
  • Be available without being intrusive
  • Spend quality time with the person
  • Take the person’s feelings seriously
  • Encourage and support positive friendships
  • Encourage activities that promote mental health
  • Give positive feedback
  • Let the person know that you love them and that you are proud of them
  • Seek professional help if required (Counselling, Headspace, Psychological treatment, GP)

 

Katerina Stratilas

School Counsellor