We've all experienced the pressures of growing up - the clothes, music and technology may change, but all teenagers will face the same challenges. Struggling with depression, feelings of anxiety and social isolation are all common experiences. However, leaving these matters unresolved or untreated for too long without youth support can be very dangerous.
Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institutes' 'Youth Mental Health Report' shows almost a quarter of young Australians (aged 15-19) indicated they could have a serious mental illness. That's why it's important to watch out for warning signs of teenage depression - facing issues when they aren't as daunting prevents the risk of serious symptoms manifesting later on.
We will first break down four main warning signs of teenage depression, and then offer parents a guide to behavioural therapy and other NSW mental health services that can help.
Depression can manifest in a number of ways for teenagers.
Four indicators that your child could have mental health issues
Here are a handful of common symptoms of teenagers struggling with mental health issues:
1. Reckless behaviour
It's reasonably normal for teenagers to act out and rebel against authority as they grow up. However, sometimes reckless behaviour indicates a deeper-rooted problem. Excessive drug and alcohol consumption, fighting or running away from home are often a 'cry for help' aimed at parents or friends, or a way to hide their mental health problems from those who may judge them.
2. Problems at school
Even if your child isn't a straight A student, a dip in grades can be a sign that they are having trouble focusing in class. Depression and anxiety is mentally draining, which makes it difficult for those affected to concentrate for long periods of time. An even clearer indication that something is wrong is if your child is skipping classes or not engaging at all with friends and teachers.
3. Low self-esteem/behaviour changes
This is one of the most blatant signs of depression or other mental health issues. Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness can lead to obvious new behaviours such as social isolation, inactivity and reclusion. It could be suddenly losing interest in their favourite hobby. It could be refusing to come out of their room and socialise. These signs and more can indicate that your child is dealing with tough mental health issues.
Depression and anxiety can mean problems focusing at school or issues like headaches.
4. Sickness and unexplained physical pains
Physical health issues often don't manifest unless mental health issues go unresolved, and they can easily be confused with any one of many other things, even growing pains. However, depression and anxiety can run your immune system down and cause joint aches and pains. If your child is normally a picture of health but suddenly they seem to be sick every week, it's worth investigating if there is anything else going on.
Mental health services in NSW
Children and teenagers coping with mental health issues need a referral from their parents or caregivers, a GP or other health professional, or their school to access support programs . Calling the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 will offer the next steps you need for guidance, assessment and referral on the the right services. The Mental Health Line is a 24-hour telephone service operating seven days a week across all regions in NSW.
One such option is the NSW Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, which provides a range of programs in local communities statewide to children, adolescents and their families who are seriously impacted by mental health and emotional wellbeing.
For crisis support or urgent cases, Kids Helpline (1800 551 800) or Lifeline (13 11 14) will put you in touch with trained staff who can provide immediate support and assess your situation.
Private institutions like Anglicare are also working to help our young Australians cope with the stresses of life and face their mental health issues through a range of support services: