Youth face a range of challenges that can lead to a mental health crisis. From school stress and unpredictability during the pandemic, to sociopolitical concerns like systemic racism, gun violence and climate change, to a lack of opportunities in their communities and abuse at home.
Providing youth with an accurate mental health assessment will allow for a tailored treatment plan that can help them safely and quickly get better.
What is a mental health crisis?
A mental health crisis is a period of time when an individual is experiencing emotional, behavioral, or physical distress that can’t be easily managed by themselves or their support system. A person in a crisis may be at risk of harming themselves or others. They may be in danger of losing their ability to function and care for themselves (NAMI, 2020).
Signs and symptoms vary from person to person, but they can include a sudden loss of interest or energy, feelings of despair, hopelessness, helplessness, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts or feelings, irritability, depression, a lack of sleep, and/or substance abuse.
A mental health crisis can be addressed in many different ways. The first step is usually a triage assessment. This involves assessing safety concerns and the immediacy of the situation in order to determine where to start. This can be done through the use of a clinical tool or simply by speaking with the individual to understand what is happening and their current concerns.
How can I help my teen?
During a crisis, teens often feel overwhelmed by intense emotions and a lack of self-control. They may also develop maladaptive coping skills that interfere with their daily lives, such as severe negative thinking or technology addictions. Teens in crisis need help identifying, understanding and treating the root causes of their struggles.
The best way to encourage a teen to talk with you about their mental health is to respond with concern and compassionate curiosity, rather than alarm (unless danger is imminent). Some experts recommend changing the setting for the conversation to help create silence and space for youth to express themselves.
It’s important to offer specific solutions when your teen asks for suggestions. Offering open-ended questions can make them feel like you don’t really understand their situation. A mental health professional can help you come up with concrete options to try. They can also work with you to improve your communication skills and strengthen your relationship.
What should I do if I think my teen is in a mental health crisis?
It can be difficult to recognize when your child is in a mental health crisis. A teen in crisis may act differently than they typically do or have thoughts that are uncharacteristic for them. It’s also important to distinguish between a mental health crisis and a “bad day” or a “phase.”
There are many different factors that can lead to a teen experiencing a mental health crisis. Some of these include:
Self-harm, like cutting or burning oneself, can often be a response to severe emotional pain and is a sign that your teen needs help. Suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, and anger issues are also signs that your teen is in a mental health crisis.
Contact your local police department to see if they have officers who have received training in Crisis Intervention Training (CIT). These officers are trained to respond to people in a mental health crisis. They can also give you a list of nearby treatment options for your teenager.
What should I do if I think my teen is in danger?
If your teen is displaying signs of mental health problems that could cause harm to themselves or others, seek help immediately. While it may feel difficult to bring up your concerns, ignoring them can only lead to more trouble down the road. When bringing up your concerns, be sure to listen to what your teen has to say without interrupting or dismissing them. This is an opportunity to teach them that they can trust you and talk openly with you.
The youth in crisis law allows parents to report a 16- or 17-year old who is running away or disregarding parental authority to the police department, where they can be designated as a “youth in crisis.” They can then be assigned to a mental health professional and receive treatment. They can also be emancipated, giving them all the rights and responsibilities of an adult, if that is appropriate for the situation. In addition, substance abuse is a serious concern and can often be a sign of deeper underlying issues that need to be addressed.