For many youth, adolescence is a period of dramatic growth and change. The complex transition into adulthood can be overwhelming and many symptoms of mental illness first appear during this time.
What Should Parents Know About Mental Illness?
- Mental illnesses are true medical conditions, and should be treated like any other health concern
- Mental illness is not a choice. Whether a mental illness is caused by genetics, trauma or a chemical imbalance, it’s no one’s fault. You child is not choosing the behavior or feelings they are experiencing
- 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime
- Many mental illnesses can be effectively treated or managed
How Can Parents Help?
- Early intervention is key to managing your child’s mental illness and preventing further distress
- Acknowledge that your child is dealing with a medical condition
- Get help from a qualified mental health professional
- Obtain an official diagnosis
- Learn all you can about the diagnosis and educate your family and friends about your child’s mental illness
- Do not compare your child to others
- Re-evaluate and modify strategies as necessary
- Work closely with your child’s teacher, doctor and school community
- Model mentally healthy behaviour in your home
How Can Parents Start Talking About Mental Illness?
Use active conservation skills
- Turn off your cell phone, television, or computer
- Display a warm, open body posture
- Pick a time when your child is relaxed and approachable
- Stay calm and supportive
Begin your conversation from a loving place
- Let your child know you are concerned and that you care
- Give clear examples of what you have noticed
- Stay age appropriate
- Ask your child to explain how they are feeling
- Seek clarification if you don’t understand something
Take the next step and get help
- Remind your child that there is lots of help available and that they can start to feel better very soon
- Let them know you will be making an appointment with your family doctor and inform them of what they can expect from the visit
- Note you will also be talking to their teachers to make sure they get the help required during their school day
What Should Parents Avoid When Talking About Mental Illness?
Try not to:
- Make assumptions or jump to conclusions
- Rush to solutions or look for quick fixes
- Get frustrated or angry
- Give up if they are not willing to talk at first. It may take several attempts