What to Do If Your Teen is in Crisis

There are a variety of issues that can cause a youth crisis. These include family struggles, such as communication problems, unhealthy coping skills and strained relationships, which can lead to substance abuse. Hunger can also have a negative impact on a youth’s mental health.

Another issue that can lead to a crisis is suicidal thoughts. These are serious and require immediate attention.

What Causes a Youth Crisis?

Most parents know that a certain amount of angst and rebellion is part of normal teen development. However, when these negative coping mechanisms cause an adolescent to become at risk of hurting themselves or others and interfere with their ability to function at home and at school, it’s time for help.

Aggression and violence have long been seen as red flags for mental health problems, but it is also possible that teens in a crisis are suffering from undiagnosed mental illness. They may be influenced by trauma, bullying, substance use or social media addiction.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of digital addiction and social isolation exacerbated an already bleak picture for many teens. Today, pediatricians and children’s healthcare groups have called the situation a national emergency. They point to increasing anxiety, depression and suicide rates among kids, as well as a shortage of services for kids in crisis. Many of these teens are staying in hospital emergency rooms until inpatient beds open up, at a great risk to themselves and their loved ones.

Getting Help for a Teenager in a Crisis

The teenage years are a time of many challenges. But if your teenager is in crisis, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. A mental health professional can provide an evaluation and treatment plan that will work best for your teen.

Various factors can lead to a crisis in teens, including:

Family conflict: If your teen has a history of unhealthy relationships with family members, this may cause them to turn to negative coping mechanisms that can lead to serious problems. This can include lying and manipulation.

Risky behaviors: Teenagers that engage in impulsive behaviors such as reckless driving or drug use can be at risk of harming themselves or others. They may also be at risk for social issues like gang involvement and bullying.

Some teens with behavioral disorders such as conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder may need what is called a surprise and removal intervention where the parents of the teen are surprised in the middle of the night and asked to immediately transport them to a treatment center.

Identifying the Root Causes of a Teen’s Crisis

A teenager’s crisis can result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. These factors can include a history of mental or emotional struggles, a family history of substance abuse, or an environment in which there is abuse, neglect or violence. A comprehensive mental health assessment can help a counselor identify and understand the root causes of your child’s crisis, allowing them to offer a treatment plan that will effectively address those issues.

Three decades ago, the gravest public health threats to teenagers in America included binge drinking, teenage pregnancy and smoking. But, according to CDC data, these risks have dropped and have been replaced by soaring rates of anxiety, mood disorders and self-harm among teens. And, the surge has had a profound impact on teenagers’ lives. Across the country, every night between 1,000 and 5,000 adolescents are spending their nights in emergency departments waiting for an inpatient bed, because they’re too much of a risk to go home.

Choosing the Right Treatment for Your Teen

It’s important that you choose a program that offers the specific type of care your teenager needs. This could include individual talk therapy or group therapy, for example. It could also involve the family in some way. You should look for a program that offers specialist teen eating disorder treatment and therapists that are either UK-registered or have formal training and lived experience as recovery specialists.

Talk therapy can be difficult for teens to open up about, but it can help them to identify and understand the roots of their problems. You can encourage them to engage in talk therapy by asking them how they’re feeling, offering a nonjudgmental attitude and inviting them to talk with you about their emotions.

You should try to get your teen to think of their therapist as more like a coach. They’ll be there to teach them new skills that will improve their mental health “game.” That might help them feel more comfortable in their relationship with their therapist.