The Importance of Talking About Mental Health with Adolescents

Talking about mental health with adolescents opens a door to prevention and makes it easier for them to ask for help when they need it.
The Importance of Talking About Mental Health with Adolescents
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 18 February, 2023

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a large number of difficulties that eventually develop into mental health disorders begin around the age of 14. Of these, many go undiagnosed and untreated. Hence the importance of talking about mental health with adolescents in order to deal with problems as soon as possible. So let’s see how to go about it in the following article.

Why is talking about mental health with adolescents important?

There are different reasons why talking about mental health with adolescents is important.

One of them has to do with the fact that many of the problems of adulthood have their onset in adolescence and can be truly limiting. Therefore, it’s essential to intervene early to allow them to enjoy a full and quality life.

Another reason to talk about mental health has to do with clarifying what it’s all about. Many times, young people equate health with the absence of disease. Therefore, being healthy means not being sick, thus reducing the complexity of the concept.

Mental health has a direct link to well-being and to who we want to be and can be. It’s related to our growth and the possibility of deploying our abilities, learning to recognize emotions, and enriching the emotional universe.

This doesn’t imply not knowing that we have problems: It means that we can ask for help to solve them, that we’re all vulnerable, and that there’s nothing wrong or “weird” about it.

How can we identify that an adolescent has a mental health problem?

A father talking to his daughter about her mental health.
Companionship, affection, understanding and respect are fundamental pillars to help a child build his or her own mental health.

Anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and eating disorders are among the most frequent and growing problems in adolescents.

Sometimes the warning signs are obvious, and other times, not so much. To that, we must add that adolescence is a stage in which many young people try to keep adults out of their lives. Also, the pace of adult life itself prevents us from detecting some signs. Let’s look at some of the indicators of a mental health problem.

  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in activities that were once seen as pleasurable.
  • Changes in mood and emotions: Irritability, crying spells, fear.
  • Difficulty sleeping, ranging from nightmares to sleep changes.
  • Appetite changes, especially extreme appetite changes. For example, loss of appetite or a striking interest in food.
  • Constant worry or nervousness. Sometimes they even manifest it as “my head is going to explode” or “I can’t stop thinking.”

Now, when are these signs very significant? When we observe that they’re persistent and are affecting other areas of life. We can expect teens to experience a certain level of anxiety before a sports competition. However, when that anxiety taints everything with displeasure, then it’s crucial to intervene with other strategies.

How to accompany adolescents?

A father talking to his daughter about her mental health.
Companionship, affection, understanding, and respect are fundamental pillars to help a child build their own mental health.

Sometimes it’s not a matter of offering major advice, but of taking small steps. As adults, we often limit ourselves with our children because we get caught up in pretentious plans to lift their spirits.

However, it’s in everyday situations, those that seem the most insignificant, that they need us the most. A romantic heartache, a broken friendship, discomfort with body changes, or a classmate who made a bad joke.

The idea is to accompany them and suggest “ordinary” measures to help them overcome their obstacles. For example, breathing, having a playlist with songs they like, calling a friend to talk, taking a shower, exercising, taking a walk with the pet, keeping a diary, and getting enough rest, among others.

Some recommendations for talking to adolescents about mental health are the following:

  • Tell our own experience. How we feel, what we do when we have problems, what helps us to calm down, etc. Starting from our most human side helps them to understand that we all have difficulties and that it’s important to manage self-care and ask for help.
  • Create a climate. Talking about some issues can be difficult. Therefore, we can think of an outing that works as an “excuse” to approach these subjects and share what’s going on.
  • Listen and validate. Don’t minimize situations or try to explain things to them in the form of preachy sermons or long speeches. Start by creating a safe and trusting space so that they can express themselves without fear. Then listen to what they want to share and be respectful of their time.
  • Seek help together. It’s about being supportive of our children and facing what’s worrying them together.

Of course, it’s important that we’re able to manage our emotions, avoiding excessive worry, overprotection, or drama.

Release the pressure of happiness and perfection

Sweatshirt logos, Instagram posts, and multiple speeches made by influencers on social networks today give the impression that the only goal in life is to be happy. However, we often forget that life is also full of stumbles and mistakes.

In this regard, talking about mental health with teenagers will allow them to understand that frustration is also part of life and that they must learn to live with less pressure to be and look a certain way. “Looking happy” at any cost shouldn’t be the goal.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • de Jesús Moreno-Gordillo, G., Trujillo-Olivera, L. E., García-Chong, N. R., & Tapia-Garduño, F. (2019). Suicidio y depresión en adolescentes: una revisión de la literatura. Revista Chilena de Salud Pública23(1), 31-41.
  • Moscoso, D. R. B., Narvaez, L. D. C. V., Ortiz, L. F. A., Ramos, R. A., & Gonzalez, E. M. V. (2021). Ansiedad y depresión en adolescentes. Revista Boletín Redipe10(2), 182-189.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.