Youth Typical or Troubled?
Learn the Difference and Possibly Save a Life

Pay attention
Real illness
Early treatment means a more full recovery
Learn the warning signs of emotional distress
Factors that make it more difficult to diagnose depression in teens
What parents can do to help their youth
What to say
You can feel better
Definition of Recovery

Pay attention
It can be very difficult for parents to tell if changes in an adolescent s behavior are normal developmental mood changes or changes that are of concern.
Paying attention to your child s behavior is the most important thing you can do in order to detect signs of serious problems. You must have a good reference point to tell if there is a sudden change. If you notice something, find out what the warning signs and symptoms of trouble are, talk to your child, and consider checking with their teachers and friends to see if they have noticed anything. Then, if you suspect there is a problem, seek help right away.

You must pay attention to your child if you expect to see the warning signs of serious problems. If your child has made an abrupt change in their behavior, seek help now.

Real illness
Depression and other illnesses, such as anxiety disorders and substance use disorders, do affect children and adolescents. These problems are not just part of growing up. One in ten children and; adolescents has a mental health disorder severe enough to cause impairment.

Untreated or unresolved mental health issues often worsen as we age. To ease the feelings of frustration, confusion, worries, loneliness and other self-condemning thoughts, people of all ages will frequently use alcohol and other drugs to try to feel better. Use of alcohol and drugs only complicates mental health problems or can be the result of misuse of substances.

Early treatment means a more full recovery
Reaching out for information and help is not a sign of weakness - it takes courage and strength.

It is extremely important get a professional assessment for your youngster as soon as you see an abrupt change in behavior or suspect any difficulties. As with any illness, early identification and appropriate treatment means a more full recovery.

Please be involved in your child s treatment and strongly consider getting help for yourself. One of the best ways to increase your child s likelihood of success is to be involved in their treatment. Parents often aren t aware of the effects of their behavior on their child. Each of us can make improvements that will have a positive impact on the whole family. The success rate of treatment diminishes significantly for children that do not have parental involvement. As your child learns new skills they must be reinforced at home and in other environments. You can play such an important role in your child s recovery. Your health is critical to their well being.

Learn the warning signs of emotional distress
Persistent sad or irritable mood
Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
Significant change in eating habits, appetite or weight
Change in sleeping patterns
Physical slowing or agitation
Loss of energy
Feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt
Difficulty concentrating
Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Withdrawal from friends and family especially without explanation
Sudden drop in school performance or frequent absences from school
Outbursts of shouting, complaining, unexplained irritability, or crying
Talk of or efforts to run away from home
Frequent, non-specific physical complaints such as headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or tiredness
Neglect of personal appearance
Aggression: Refusal to cooperate, Antisocial behavior
Alcohol or Substance Misuse
Social isolation, poor communication
Lack of interest in friends
Low self-esteem
Reckless/Risk-taking behaviors
Attention seeking behaviors including cutting
Difficulty with relationships
Feeling that life isn t worth living: Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

Factors that make it more difficult to diagnose depression in teens:
Expression of symptoms varies with the developmental stage of the child
Adolescents do not always understand or cannot express feelings
Symptoms are often dismissed as just part of growing up
There is a strong tie between getting into trouble and feeling depressed
Parents are less likely to identify depression in their adolescents than are the adolescents themselves

Family history and learned behaviors
In most cases, stressful events are correlated with onset of depression
We can t say for sure that stress causes depression
Stressors associated with depression may be major or minor
Loss of a family member/parent through death or divorce
Moving to a new area
Problems in the home (e.g., abuse or neglect)
A break-up with a girlfriend or boyfriend
Problems at school
Ongoing rejection by other students
Accumulation of minor stressors may also be linked to depression
Social support can protect people from developing depression when stress is high
We can t be sure that lack of social support causes depression, however, depressed people do have fewer supportive relationships than non-depressed people
Parents that think that just because their child has everything they should be happy
Parents that think that their children don t have a lot of pressures from the age of 10 12 pressures at school and with peers do become intense

What parents can do to help their youth
Talk to your child
Listen to your child
Offer help
Contact your child s primary care physician
Contact your child s therapist if he/she already has one
Contact your child s teachers
Foster peer support
Educate yourself and your family
Let your child know that they are not alone connect them with
Support groups
Other adolescents
Help your youth now because it will impact their future. Their ability to keep a job (their work performance, absenteeism increases, lower work productivity)

What to say
As a parent you can help your child better understand mental illness by explaining what mental health problems are, their causes and ways they can be treated. Mental illnesses can affect the way a person thinks, feels and acts. Some common types of mental illnesses that your child may have heard of are:
Anxiety Disorders, like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Panic Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Bipolar Disorder
Eating Disorders, like Anorexia and Bulimia
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

There are varying degrees of mental wellness and illness. For some people, naturally occurring chemicals in the brain get out of balance and cause mental illness. For other, research shows that very stressful, traumatic or violent events can make changes in the brain and result in a person developing mental illness.

You can feel better
Mental illness can be treated. People can and do recover. Individuals with mental illness are primarily treated with:
Therapy and counseling to resolve problems, change negative thought patterns and develop coping skills
A combination of these as prescribed by a mental health care professional.
Healthy lifestyle changes that include exercise, stress management, balanced diet, and developing a more positive attitude
Community services and support systems

Definition of Recovery
In July of 2003 the President s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health issued it s final report: Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America. The ultimate goal of a transformed system of care as identified by the Commission was summed in one word: RECOVERY. While the commission report focuses more on transforming the system of care, it is important to have some understanding of what is meant by Recovery .
The commission defines Recovery as: Recovery refers to the process in which people are able to live, work, learn and participate fully in their communities. For some individuals, recovery is the ability to live a fulfilling and productive life despite a disability. For others, recovery implies the reduction or complete remission of symptoms. Science has shown that having hope plays an integral role in an individual s recovery.

Some key points to this working definition.
Recovery is a process , an on-going series of stages which people go through. Recovery is not a cure nor is it an end-product. Recovery can also be ever-changing, in that individuals may choose or be able to do certain things at certain times, but not at other times.
Each individual defines what recovery is for them, not others. This is a very fundamental point in that the individual is the driver in determining their recovery not clinicians, doctors or others deciding for them. Ultimately it should be an equal partnership between the individual and all those providing services in developing a plan of care with clearly defined goals. Again these goals should be driven by the individual and in partnership with the care providers.
Recovery can be much more than just lessening of symptoms, medication and therapy. Frequently it can involve all spheres of the person s life. Critical areas that should be considered include: Supportive employment: Research shows individuals with a mental illness disability have the highest rate of not working. Also many programs emphasize serving other disabilities for assistance. Housing: This includes supportive housing programs, and being able to access affordable housing in the community. Peer support services: This includes a full range of consumer run programs and services from clubhouses, to drop in centers, to peer supporters. Recent research has demonstrated improved outcomes and better recovery when individuals can access these peer run support programs in addition to their traditional therapy. Other services include support groups and programs such as BRIDGES, WRAP and Schizophrenics Anonymous. Access to and coordination with other health care. This area is often overlooked and needs to be included in a person s plan of care.

Recovery is a process that virtually everyone goes through each person defines it differently. While there is debate as to whether a person can fully recover or is always in recovery , it is a process that encompasses much more than just improving a person s presenting symptoms. Recovery is the process of the individual, in full partnership with care providers to address all areas of a person s life, to be productive and participate fully in their community.

For more information take a wellness check with your youth
and learn from the other information on this site.
For a comprehensive list of resources please refer to our Resource List

Typical or Troubled?
Learn the Difference and Possibly Save a Life!