Today’s teenagers face an unprecedented number of challenges. An uncertain economy and increasing levels of poverty creates worry around their futures and their parents’ job security, the popularity of social media fosters unhealthy levels of comparison and the near-ubiquitous use of technology, combined with 24/7 news, removes the ability to switch off. And that’s not even taking into account ‘classic’ teenage issues like exam pressure and navigating new social situations.
If it sounds like too much, it is. Left to fester, these issues can develop into mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, eating disorders and drug and alcohol addiction.
Rising teenage mental health issues
We’re already seeing the fallout from these issues being ignored. Here in the UK, the number of young people arriving at A&E needing urgent mental health support has tripled in the last decade. Now a quarter of young women have a mental health problem and suicide is the biggest killer of boys and young men. It impacts all ages in this cohort, with one in six children aged five – 16 now having a mental health issue.
What barriers are there to accessing help?
Despite the growing concerns over teenage mental health, less than one in three young people with a mental health condition can access NHS treatment. This is unfortunate, as therapy often helps teenagers improve their mental health and equips them with the tools they need to cope.
Unfortunately, mental health charities often have long waiting lists and there are rarely enough school counsellors to meet the growing need for mental health support in this age group.
And while the conversation around mental health has helped many people open up and reach out, it has also proved fertile ground for unqualified practitioners. As an unregulated industry, it’s imperative that you check qualifications and membership to trustworthy organisations such as UKCP, BACP and NCS, to ensure you are working with a qualified and experienced therapist.
One other barrier to receiving care is teenagers themselves are sometimes unconvinced about the benefits of therapy. Parents can help through having open conversations, normalising the idea of mental health support, giving them space and time to think it through and offering options, such as going with them or exploring online therapy first.
When should I seek help?
It can be difficult to know what is normal teenage behaviour and what is a cause for concern. For example, certain behaviours, like mood swings, can be appropriate for teenage development. But there are some signs of more serious problems to look out for, including:
- Aggressive behaviour
- Self-harm or suicidal ideation
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Extreme worrying or catastrophising
- Sustained low mood, tearfulness or feelings of hopelessness
- Inability to find joy in things they used to
- Radical changes to normal patterns of eating and/or sleeping
- Failure to cope with normal life stresses
- Isolating themselves from friends and family
How can adolescent therapy help?
Adolescent therapy uses the same basic framework as therapy for adults and holistically combines those principles with the theory of developmental psychology to make it relevant to teenagers.
As with adults, therapy can help teenagers by giving them the space to explore their emotions in a safe place, with a highly skilled therapist. In turn, they will become more adept at communicating and better able to understand themselves and their feelings. Practically speaking, counselling equips teenagers with the tools needed to tackle unhealthy habits and teaches them strategies to better cope with pressure.
Encouraging adolescents to open up and engage meaningfully with therapy is not easy, which is why all of our counsellors who work with this demographic have completed specialised training and CRB checks. Here at Inner Space, Nicola, Sorrell and Frances are our specialist practitioners who work with young people in a judgement-free, highly effective way.
If you’re interested in exploring how adolescent therapy could help your family, book in for a free phone consultation with one of our team by calling 01892 249032. Alternatively, click on the green ‘book a consultation’ button to automatically select a time that suits you.
YoungMinds Textline – text YM to 85258 for free, 24/7 support
Childline – call 0800 11 11 between 9am-midnight, 365 days a year
NHS urgent mental health helpline (England only) – 24 hours advice and support for you and your child
YoungMinds Impact Report – Information and statistics about the current state of young people’s mental health in the UK