Youth in Crisis

Youth are struggling through imbalanced challenges. From ongoing attacks on marginalized young people in schools to gun violence and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, they are living in an emotional crisis.

Parents need to be aware of the symptoms to identify when their children are in crisis. Paying attention to changes in their baseline behavior, like sleep patterns and social engagement can help them notice the signs.

Changes in Behavior

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many youth experienced an increase in their feelings of anxiety and depression. Those concerns and the risk-taking behaviors that often accompany them, such as drug abuse or violent behaviour, worsened as the pandemic created more instability in their lives and forced them to isolate from family members and friends.

Psychologists have been studying the root causes of these trends and are developing solutions for parents, schools and state governments to ensure that every child and teen has access to the care they need. They’re promoting new screenings for mental health issues and working to promote innovative approaches to crisis response for young people.

Behavioral health services can help adolescents cope with their emotional and physical crises. They can also provide a safe space to discuss their emotions, teach them positive coping strategies and support them as they explore their options for the future. These services are essential for their emotional and mental well-being, as well as for the safety of their families.

Dangerous Behaviors

Taking risks is a natural part of adolescence, but when these risky behaviors have negative consequences for your child’s mental and physical health, it’s important to seek help. If your teen is consistently staying out past curfew, using drugs or engaging in self-destructive behavior, it could be a sign of an underlying mental or emotional issue that needs professional attention.

Unhealthy risk behaviors can lead to illness, injury and death in adolescents. Teens who engage in high-risk behaviors need psychoeducation, behavioral modification and treatment, which can be provided by a variety of professionals. Pediatricians are especially positioned to identify and help treat risk behaviors because of their long-term relationships with families and their efforts to destigmatize mental health care. Other professionals with expertise in adolescent behavior, such as community psychologists and social workers, can also be valuable resources. In addition, teens need access to high-quality, teen-friendly health care. (CDC, 2018b).

Suicide Attempts

Suicide attempts by youth are more common than many people think, especially during times of high stress. A teen may attempt suicide when he or she feels overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, despair, and depression. The teen may also feel hopeless about his or her future, have a history of depression and/or other mental health problems, and have easy access to lethal substances/objects (guns and pills).

Children and teens who are thinking about suicide often show warning signs, such as expressing hopelessness or being overly depressed. They may withdraw from friends and family, display a change in school performance, or spend more time alone. They may also have a plan, and talk about it or allude to it. Even if the plan is less complete or dangerous, any mention of suicide should be taken seriously.

Substance Abuse

Drug abuse can lead to a variety of health complications. In adolescents, it can cause physical damage to organs and impair mental well-being. It can also increase their risk of HIV and hepatitis infections because many teens use needles to inject drugs.

Substance use can quickly escalate from experimentation to addiction and is more likely to do so in kids with mental health conditions. Studies show that ADHD and mood disorders like depression and anxiety strongly predict substance abuse.

Look for signs of drug abuse in your child, including neglecting responsibilities, lying to friends and family members, stealing money or items to buy drugs and engaging in risk-taking behaviors like experimenting with different types of substances or taking higher doses than prescribed. Changes in eating habits, bloodshot eyes and changes in body weight can also be indicative of drug abuse. If your teen is using any type of drug, talk to their physician about treatment programs, including residential treatment centers, partial hospitalization programs and medication-assisted treatments.