Youth in Crisis

As armed conflict and violence escalate around the globe, youth are emerging as critical factors in stability and recovery. Yet their needs, as well as those of their families and communities, are often overlooked.

Keep an eye out for drastic changes in your child’s behavior, such as drug or alcohol use, running away and sexually risky activities. They may also be in a mental health crisis.

What is a Crisis?

A crisis is a life-threatening event that cannot be resolved with the help of a youth’s normal problem-solving resources and skills. It can be triggered by a number of situations and events such as a breakup, natural or large scale disaster, loss of a loved one, drug abuse, physical or emotional violence, self-harm, suicidal thoughts/behaviors, or witnessing a violent act.

Children and youth crisis services provide immediate, responsive support during a behavioral health emergency, including assessment, evaluation, stabilization and treatment in the least restrictive setting possible. Oftentimes, these services work with individuals’ immediate support networks to ensure that they receive ongoing care after discharge from the crisis setting. They also take a trauma-informed approach, which recognizes the role of trauma in mental illness and substance use disorders, as well as in crisis responses and recovery. They strive to provide dignified and recovery-oriented care while ensuring safety for all. Moreover, they promote the belief that everyone deserves hope.

What are the Signs of a Mental Health Crisis?

A mental health crisis is a state of extreme emotional or behavioral upset that makes someone feel like they are in danger or cannot cope. It could be the result of many things such as a family breakup, addiction, homelessness, work stress, financial worries, or feelings of depression and anxiety.

Youth in a mental health crisis can be at risk of hurting themselves or others. They may not be able to think clearly or make decisions for themselves. They may not be able to do the most basic tasks, such as getting dressed or eating.

A mental health crisis can affect everyone differently. The signs of a crisis are unique to each person. Some people might not have any warning signs, while for others, a single event or situation can trigger a crisis. Symptoms can include suicidal thoughts, self-harm and other dangerous behaviors or activity. You should always watch for changes in a young person’s behavior.

How Can I Help My Teen?

As a parent, you want to ensure your teenager is getting the best mental health care possible. If you are concerned they are in a crisis, speak with a mental health professional. Working with a therapist can help identify and treat any underlying mental health issues that may be contributing to their symptoms.

You can also work with a therapist to address your teenager’s behavior and develop healthy coping skills. Changing unhealthy behaviors can help improve mood, regulate sleep patterns, relieve stress and anxiety and promote better self-esteem.

If your teen is in an immediate, life-threatening situation, seek a psychiatric emergency room immediately. For teens who are not a danger to themselves but need a more structured and safe environment, consider a mental health day treatment program that offers 24/7 observation, stabilization, behavioral therapy and academic instruction.

Lastly, make sure to talk with your teen often in a positive and nonjudgmental way. Focusing on positive face-to-face communication can reduce stress, improve relationships and increase a teen’s ability to manage their emotions.

What Can I Do to Help My Teen?

The key to helping your teenager during a mental health crisis is early intervention. This allows the teen to receive the care they need and can reduce the long-term impact of their mental health struggle.

Work with a therapist to identify and understand the root cause of your teenager’s mental health struggles. This can help them avoid future crises and get them back on track in all areas of life, including school, relationships, and employment.

Encourage healthy self-care, including sleep, diet and exercise. It is also important to encourage emotional and spiritual self-care through activities such as journaling, art or music.

If your teen is in an immediate danger of hurting themselves or others, seek emergency care. This can be done through a psychiatric unit at your local hospital or by calling 911. If your teenager needs more care than outpatient therapy can provide, a specialized program like OASIS can offer a comprehensive inpatient assessment and treatment.