Seeing your child engage positively with family, friends, school, and play can be an incredible sigh of relief, particularly if you have seen the challenges that they experienced in managing mental health difficulties in the past. Although some ups and downs are normal in response to life stressors, it is important that we are mindful of the indicators that things may not be going so well again, and some strategies to support maintenance of good mental health and wellbeing.
Understanding the signs that your teen may be heading towards a mental health relapse can help you to action support strategies when required.
Identify triggers and warning signs early
There are a number of pressures and stressors that can impact on a teen’s mental health and may pose a risk factor for relapse such as:
- Excessive school pressures – school work and assessments
- Social pressures – peer pressure and social media
- Life pressures – such as significant transitions
- Home pressures – responsibilities and family conflict
- Self-imposed – high self-expectations, managing multiple commitments of school and co-curricular
Some common warning signs that your teen may be experiencing difficulties with their mental health include:
- Increased irritability and more extreme emotions (highs and lows)
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Appearing tired, reporting difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Not enjoying or engaging in activities that they usually do
- Appearing stressed or overwhelmed – difficulty managing stress or changes that they may normally be able to take in their stride
- Increased conflict with others
- Appearing anxious, on edge, or down
- Risk taking behaviour such as using alcohol or drugs
Relapse Prevention – Support helpful coping strategies
Supporting your teen to reduce the chance of a relapse in their mental health involves preventative strategies, as well as implementation of helpful coping strategies that they have developed and implemented effectively in the past. These may include:
- Supporting them to engage in activities that promote good mental health and wellbeing such as relaxation techniques, sports, hobbies, activities for fun and enjoyment, as well as creative outlets such as drawing, painting, or playing an instrument.
- Encourage physical activity – this can be helpful for relieving stress, managing difficult thoughts and feelings, and improving concentration and confidence.
- Support them to eat well – the impact of nutrition on health, mood, energy levels and sleep is significant. Encourage a balanced diet and lots of water to help their physical and mental wellbeing.
- Encourage a good sleep routine – good sleep can have a positive impact on mood and assists in helping young people (and people of all ages) in managing their emotions and stress. Young people aged 12- 17 normally require between 8-10 hours sleep per night. Turning off devices at least 30-60 minutes before bed also assists with a more rested sleep.
- Challenge unhelpful thinking – recognise and assist your teen to reframe unhelpful ways that they are viewing a situation or themselves. Assist them to think about things in a more rational or balanced way.
- Support problem solving skills – assist your teen to develop solutions to tricky problems and assess what is best for them.
- Encourage social connections – positive relationships with friends and within the community are important for our general wellbeing. They are also an important source of support for young people to speak to when they are having a difficult time.
- Support them to avoid alcohol or drugs – teens may turn to these to cope in the short term. This often causes additional problems and negative health impacts.
- Understand and show compassion – stressors and challenges in life are inevitable and it is important that we show our children (and ourselves) compassion when going through difficulties and set-backs.
Accessing Professional Support
It is important that a young person speak with someone if they notice that they are experiencing difficulties with how they are feeling again. Accessing or re-engaging with professional support can be helpful. Speaking with your General Practitioner (GP) or contacting the professional service that they have previously engaged with can be a good place to start. Speaking with a Psychologist can assist in supporting your teen to implement skills and tools that are most helpful in supporting them to prevent a mental health relapse.
Supporting a child who is experiencing difficulties with their mental health can take its toll. Make sure you stay connected and look after yourself. It may also be helpful for you to engage with a professional for your own support and to develop additional coping skills. If you feel that you or your child may require assistance, please contact us at Prosper Health Collective for further information on 6381 0071.