If a young person you care about is showing signs of depression, anxiety or self-harm, help is not far away.
There are many things that parents, family members, teachers and friends can do to help a young person navigate through the valley of dark moods or mental illness.
Listen Now: Collett Smart talks about helping teens
Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by
Update your browser or Flash plugin
On Thursday, June 11, psychologist and author Collett Smart will be giving a talk at Fusion Western Sydney, on the topic of mental health and young people.
Ms Smart said teen depression is a huge problem in Australia, with about 1 in 6 suffering from it, and suicide is killing more young Australians than car accidents.
However she said being aware of the problem is the first step towards turning things around.
How To Recognise Depression In A Teenager
Ms Smart said that all teenagers get the occasional “blue” day, but if a young person is emotionally low for more than a couple of weeks running, depression could be at work.
“All teenagers go through mood swings, it’s very much a part of their hormonal changes and growing up, so depression is not just your one-off bad mood or bad day or feeling down after something that’s happened with a friendship,” she said.
“It’s where we start to see two weeks or more of bad days, a very consistent pattern, when you see this pattern of a general change in behaviour.”
Signs to look for in your teen or young adult include:
- A change in mood from the type of child you know your child to be
- Withdrawal from the things they used to love, such as sport or music
- Avoiding socialising, not seeing friends a lot
- Irritability and anger outbursts
- Lack of sleep / insomnia
- Too much sleep; sleeping to withdraw
- A change in appetite – eating a lot more or a lot less than normal
- Struggling to get up in the morning
Helping A Youth With Mental Troubles
It’s important to get help from outside the family, if the things you’re trying at home with your teenager aren’t working, said Ms Smart.
She said the best place to start is with your GP.
“The family doctor is the first person to go to for support, and to find out where they can refer you,” she said.
“I’m always loathe to put teens straight onto any kind of medication. But some doctors may choose to do that once they’ve tried something over a long period of time.
“That might help for a short while, as it lifts the black mood while your teen is getting help and support.
Tips for helping your troubled young person include:
- Don’t blame them or make blunt remarks like ‘snap out of it’ or ‘get on with your life’. “That just loads on the guilt”, Ms Smart said.
- Encouraging them to still engage in things that they have always enjoyed.
- Encourage them to exercise, even if it’s as simple as walking the dog. It’ll stimulate natural endorphins and get more oxygen to the brain.
- Listen to them, and ask how you can support them today.
Seminar For Parents, Friends, Teachers, Youth Workers
Collett Smart will speak on Thursday, June 11 at a seminar titled "Mental Health And Young People: Depression, Anxiety and Self Harm”.
The seminar is for parents, carers, teachers, counsellors and family members, as well as community and church workers.
Topics will include:
- Communicating with a young person you are worried about
- Types of self-harming behaviours including ‘Digital Self Harm’
- Anxiety and depression, how they differ, and how to recognise them in young people
- Recognising the triggers
- Practical strategies for supporting young people
- The seminar is at Fusion Western Sydney Youth & Community Centre in St Marys.
- For seminar details go to fusionwesternsydney.org.au.
- Collett Smart is a registered psychologist, qualified school teacher, mum of three, and the founder of FamilySmart, a blog on raising teenagers.