Did you know that overcoming a mental health challenge is entirely possible, and that the first step to wellness is finding the courage to ask for help?  Teens such as yourself are more likely to develop mental health conditions than other age groups because of the many brain and body changes that take place throughout adolescence.  Maybe you have never heard that the signs of mental illness can be caught early and serious consequences can be avoided by knowing when to ask a trusted adult for help. Knowing that you are not alone and that there is hope for a better life (a concept called recovery) is extremely important for young people like yourself to understand.

What to Know

Mental health symptoms do not appear suddenly. They develop slowly over time. A mental health condition happens when we have ignored troubling feelings, behaviors, and thoughts for too long.  The consequences of this can be failure in school, loss of friendships, and trouble with our parents, etc. If we can learn what early signs look like, we can stop ourselves from having serious problems in school and at home. If you have already missed early signs, know that it is never too late to begin your journey of healing. In addition to talking with friends, it is often helpful to ask a parent, teacher, and/or counselor for one-on-one time to talk things out.

What to Look for

Recognizing early signs of mental health challenges is important to your wellness.  You may feel moody or afraid for no reason. You may isolate yourself from others or try to escape dealing with stress through drug and alcohol use. Gaining or losing weight, several weeks of feeling sad or withdrawn, failing in school, and difficulty concentrating are important warning signs to keep in mind as well.  If you or someone you know has thoughts of hurting yourself/themselves or others, we urge you to tell an adult immediately.

What to Do for You

Talk to an adult you trust, such as a parent or counselor at school.  If talking is difficult send a text or email. Ask to see a therapist.  Keep in mind that in Delaware, if you are 14 years or older, you can see a therapist without a parent signature. Before your appointment, make a list of challenging thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that you are experiencing.  You can download a mood tracking app on your phone or keep hard copy journal.  Additionally, don’t forget to make note of your best characteristics and accomplishments.  These are your strengths, and will carry you through the toughest of times.  If you can’t identify your strengths now, don’t worry. This is normal when we are challenged with strong feelings and unhappy thoughts. Ask a counselor or a friend to brainstorm your strengths with you.

What to Do for Others

If someone close to you is struggling to cope, you don’t need to fix what’s wrong. Instead, ask how they are doing and listen. Share what you have observed about them that concerns you and keep listening. If you are still worried, recommend talking to a responsible adult or counselor.  Reserve judgments about other people, as you may not be fully in the know about their circumstances. As you explore what it means to be a good friend, remember that each person’s symptoms and strengths will be unique, and will therefore differ from your own in some way.  Simply being there for others is enough.

Promotion / Prevention

Just as mental health challenges can make us feel lonely and isolated from the rest of the world, it is our connections (to other human beings) that is the greatest cure.  Should early warning signs of mental health conditions be taking place in your everyday life, please exercise courageousness in asking for help, and encourage your peers to do the same. After all, we cannot help if we do not know. If you feel something, say something.