In this section
Mental health is the emotional, social and behavioural wellbeing of any infant, child, young person or adult. All people, no matter what their age, can have mental health problems. Good mental health is important for healthy development, and research
tells us that recognising and addressing problems early can help improve outcomes.
Having good mental health involves:
Adolescence can be a challenging time for parents and young people, and changes in behaviour and mood are common. Knowing what’s normal and recognising the signs of social, emotional or behavioural problems in older children and teenagers can be difficult for parents.
The following symptoms may be a sign of mental health concerns in a teenager, especially if you notice these issues being present most of the time and affecting your child’s ability to cope with day-to-day life at home or school:
The exact cause for most mental heath problems is not known. Many factors combine to affect a person’s social and emotional wellbeing, including factors from their environment and factors they inherit from their family. Drug and alcohol use is a risk factor for mental health problems in teenagers. It’s
important to remember that difficulties with mental health in children and teenagers are no-one’s fault, and no-one is to blame.
Adolescents, particularly between the ages of 15 and 18, are at increased risk of having a mental health condition. Early adolescence is a time when young people want independence from their parents, but skills such as problem solving, decision making, and impulse control are still being learnt as
the brain develops. Often, adolescence is a time of increased stress from school, family, and social pressures. Everyday challenges (eg. family breakdowns, making mistakes, bullying or a falling out with friends) may be harder to overcome during this time in a young person’s development.
Building resilience in adolescents can help them to cope and recover more easily from difficult situations. Having strong, positive relationships and spending time with your child is key to building resilience.
It is also important to encourage healthy habits. Parents can promote good mental health in their teenagers by:
Often parents don’t feel confident in seeking help for problems with their child’s social, emotional and behavioural wellbeing. It’s important for you and your child to have support. You should speak to a professional and encourage your child to join you in seeking help if they continue to have difficulties after you have tried general strategies to help, if things do not get better or start to get worse, or the difficulties are beginning to interfere in your child’s everyday activities. A school teacher, school counsellor or GP are good starting points to help you access the right help for your child.
If your child talks
about suicide or self-harm, seek help from a medical professional. If you or your
child is in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm, contact emergency
services on 000.
There are many community services available if you have concerns about your child’s mental health or you’d like more information:
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.