Mental health issues among teenagers were on the rise before COVID-19 put the world on lockdown. Since that time, teens mental health has become a national concern. Mental Health America (MHA) reports that 15% of teens between 12 and 17 had at least one major depressive episode in the previous year. This is an increase of more than 300,000 from 2021.
MHA also reports 2.5 million youth has severe depression, and over 60% are not receiving treatment. Teens also suffer from anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-harm, and suicide.
Risk Factors for Teens Mental Health
There is no clear path to mental illness. Each teen has different risk factors, which are situations or events that make it more likely they will develop a mental health disorder. Some risk factors include:
- Home environment
- School environment
- Work environment
- Past traumas
- Substance misuse
- Physical health
New Risk Factor- Social Media
There is a new risk factor with a lot of solid evidence of the effects of social media on teens. Social media refers to online platforms like Snapchat, tik tok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Research shows over 90% of teens are on social media. In 2021, the Surgeon General put a warning label on the overuse of social media and its connection to some teens mental health. They now know that social media overuse permanently changes a teen’s brain. Sleep deprivation, memory issues, and neurotransmitter dysfunction are changes in the brain that can lead to depression, anxiety, or other mental health problems.
Teens Mental Health and the Holidays
Some teens may see the holidays as a much-needed break from the stressors of school, extracurricular activities, and peer relationships. Other teens may feel more stress during the holidays because they will spend more time with family, traveling, and being away from peers. In addition, the amount of time they spend on social media may increase, which can be unhealthy.
Signs that a teens mental health is affected by the holidays include the following:
- Isolating from friends or family
- Feeling anxious in social settings
- Overeating or undereating
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Lacking good hygiene
- Thinking and moving slower than usual
- Getting agitated easily
- Feeling aches and pains for no apparent reason
- Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
Managing Your Teens Mental Health
The good news about teens and mental illness during the holidays is that it can be managed so that everyone can have a good experience. Below are some steps to take.
Stress can look like many things, such as social reunions, family pressures, food and drink temptations, and lack of routine. Take your time with the triggers of stress. Instead, start implementing stress management techniques to help your teens mental health.
Most parents need stress management also, and you can make stress reduction a family activity. Start with getting quality sleep every night. You can also practice yoga, meditation, exercise, muscle relaxation, and deep breathing.
Keep a Routine
Structure and routine are good because you know what to expect, which can ease the stress from anticipation. There are ways to keep a routine even if you will be traveling and visiting family elsewhere. Choose four or five activities you can do from anywhere. Create a schedule to follow no matter where you are. An example may be:
Morning, wake up at 7:00 am, brush your teeth, and get dressed. Be ready for breakfast by 8:00 am. Eat a healthy breakfast and by 9:00 am, start your day. Then make lunch, supper, and bedtime the same. Activities from 9:00 am to noon or 1:00 pm may differ each day.
Routines regulate your circadian rhythm, which is your internal clock that aids in functioning many body processes.
Get Feedback from Your Teen
Teens can feel frustrated when they are not included in the planning of their holiday activities. They also feel anxiety and anger over just being told what to do. This year, get feedback from your teen on how they feel about the invitations you receive.
Hearing your teen’s point of view does not mean you have to change your plans but instead allows you to learn more about why your teen feels the way they do. Being able to express themselves can reduce anxiety. Also, when possible, compromise. Your teen will feel like a valued member of the family.
Don’t Accept Every Invitation
Your teen is more important than anything else. While including your teen in holiday planning, you may learn they have legitimate fears or concerns about attending certain events or visiting certain people. For example, if visiting family puts your teen at risk of being bullied by extended family, don’t go.
If a family member has abused your teen, do not make them be around their abuser. In addition, attending too many events during the holiday season can be physically and emotionally draining.
It’s okay to reject an invitation. Just be honest and say that your family needs a break from social events due to mental health. There is nothing wrong with having a mental health disorder. There is something wrong with not making your teens mental health a priority.
Get Support for the Holidays
Mental health counselors understand how the holidays affect teens mental health and have numerous solutions to managing mental health. Be proactive and set up individual or group activities through a local treatment center, like The Arrow House.
Teens benefit from meeting with peers who understand them because they are going through the same things. They can learn proven techniques for coping with emotions during the holidays by working with counselors. Not all teens want to talk to their parents about issues, but they will talk to a counselor or peers. Allow them to do this in a healthy environment with licensed professionals.
Because mental health treatment centers provide family therapies, there is an opportunity for the whole family to learn how to help a teens mental health disorder during the holidays. Go ahead, and call today.