Palo Alto, California has been in the National news in recent months due to the cluster of teen suicides that have occurred in the quiet suburb just south of San Francisco. Many are left wondering “what is the best way to parent a teen in crisis”?
Parenting through the teen years can be challenging at best. There are few parents who would say that they came through these wonder years unscathed. It’s natural. It’s a normal time of separation and discovery, of trial and error. It’s said to be a time of growth for both the teen and their parents. Though in the midst of these taxing years, it’s often times difficult to see the silver lining. To exacerbate these challenging times, it’s often when a teenager is between 15 and 18 years old, that the first signs of mental illness can arise.
It’s the perfect storm. The waters you are sailing are already turbulent and suddenly there is a gaping hole in the bottom of your boat. Bailing out helps at first, but the water simply fills up faster than you can get rid of it. Suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a real life-threatening crisis. Now what?
Recognizing compromised mental health can be challenging, especially since teenagers are predisposed to mood swings, angst and drama as a result of their brain development process. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, often brain development in teens, especially as it relates to keeping emotional and impulsive responses in check, are not fully on-line until a teen reaches their early 20’s. It’s here in the processes involved with how the brain matures, that mental illnesses have their roots.
Often times, it’s difficult to differentiate normal teenage behaviors from the beginning signs of a deeper more serious situation. It is critical that parents are aware that changes in mood, personality, grades or other forms of “acting” out may be much more than their teen just behaving badly. The ability for a parent to be open and aware of the challenges their teenager is experiencing can be the difference between early intervention and crisis navigation down the road.
In either case, once in the midst of a mental health crisis, parents can easily find themselves alone in the middle of very rough seas. The act of staying silent about a child’s mental health challenges can create deeper wounds for both the teen and the family. This is a critical time to find parent support. Support is the key to the entire family unit surviving the experience. It allows for all members of the family to feel heard and understood, opening the door for more compassion and understanding for everyone.
Looking for more information on support alternatives? Please visit National Alliance on Mental Illness at NAMI.org or for Peer Support visit Recharge Basecamp at Rechargebasecamp.com