Mental Health Awareness: How to Become a Teen Mental Health Ally
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May is a special time of year. It marks the time of year of transition from spring to summer in many parts of the world. It can bring a sense of renewal and growth. It’s a time when nature can be vibrant and have a feeling of optimism and energy in the air. For teens, it can be a time of changes that can be exciting and stressful. Being a teen is an adventure that can be filled with ups, downs and everything in between. Teens learn to navigate through a maze of emotions, friendships, school pressures and self-discovery. While navigating through these, they’re also trying to find their place in the world. It’s a time of growth, change and learning. It’s important to help teens understand that it’s completely OK to feel overwhelmed at times. 

Mental Health Awareness Month happening in May can help bring awareness to issues many teens face like stress, anxiety, depression and social pressures at a time when a big focus is on teens with end-of-year activities. It can be a time that encourages conversations, initiatives and support systems that can make a real difference in the lives of teens. May’s focus on mental health can serve as a reminder to practice self-care, as well as a guide to how to ask for help when needed, build resilience and develop coping strategies as teens transition into a new phase of life. It can also be a time to build a nurturing community where teens can flourish emotionally and mentally. 

How parents can be teen mental health allies

Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to foster understanding, compassion and support for mental health for all, including teens. Parents play a pivotal role in nurturing their teens’ mental health. By incorporating some strategies into your parenting approach, you can become an effective ally for your teen’s mental health. Strategies that can boost your positive impact can include:

  • Foster open communication — Let your teen know it’s OK to talk about their feelings, fears and struggles. Create an environment where your teen can feel safe and valued. Prioritize actively listening with an open heart and avoiding judgmental reactions. Avoid making comments like, “Just snap out of it,” “You have nothing to be depressed about,” and “You’re too young to be stressed.” Acknowledge and validate your teen’s emotions, even if you may not fully understand them. Let your teen know that their emotions are valid and important. Use supportive and validating statements like, “I’m here for you whenever you want to talk,” “I’m proud of you for reaching out for help,” and “I’m listening without judgment.” Build trust through consistent communication. Share your own struggles with mental health. Encouraging open dialogue can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.
  • Build knowledge — The more you know about the mental health struggles teens face, the better equipped you can be to support your teen. It’s never too late to start learning if you feel like you’ve missed your chance. Educate yourself and stay updated through reputable sources of information about common mental health issues faced by teens, as well as their causes, symptoms and available treatments. Knowledge can empower you to recognize warning signs early on. 
  • Encourage self-care — Help your teen prioritize self-care by modeling healthy habits yourself. Show your teen the importance of managing stress, getting enough rest and prioritizing personal wellness. Help boost their knowledge of how to practice self-care and that it’s more than just taking a long soak in the tub or face masks. Self-care is doing activities and practices that help promote their physical, emotional and mental well-being. Encourage them to do activities like journaling, getting regular exercise, doing mindfulness practices and spending time outdoors in nature. Advocate for eating a balanced diet and getting sufficient amounts of sleep. 
  • Respect boundaries — Respect your teen’s boundaries while fostering a sense of trust and openness. Avoid invading their privacy, but also let them know you’re available for support whenever they need it. Pay attention to your own communication style and adjust it to your teen’s preferences. Some teens may prefer direct conversations, while others may need some time to process their thoughts. 
  • Seek support together — If your teen needs professional support, you can approach it as a team. Offer to seek out mental health professionals who can offer guidance, therapy and resources tailored to your teen’s needs for whole-person-centered care, whether on their own or together as a family. Make sure you involve your teen in the process. Keeping them involved or following their lead can empower them to take an active role in their mental health journey. Early intervention can make a significant difference. 
  • Model positive coping strategies — If you also struggle with your mental health, let your teen see you use effective and healthy coping mechanisms like deep breathing exercises, mindfulness or engaging in creative outlets. Encourage your teen to explore activities that can help them relax and manage stress that fit their interests. Help your teen learn problem-solving skills, and encourage them to approach challenges with a positive mindset. Help them develop resilience and adaptability to effectively handle life’s ups and downs. 

Lightfully Teen can help you support your teen to be a better mental health ally

The teen years can be incredibly challenging. Let’s take time this month to celebrate the resilience and strength of teens who are navigating mental health challenges with courage and grace. It’s also important to help celebrate those teens struggling to navigate mental health challenges. By showing up and letting them know they aren’t alone, they can stay strong and continue to endure. The stories of teens persevering through their mental health struggles can be an inspiration to create a world where mental health is valued and supported. This generation of teens is doing good work to help shed light on their struggles, and it’s important that the older generations continue to embrace and support them and help break down the stigmas surrounding mental health. 

Change is possible. When they’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of your teen.

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