Parent and child sitting on bench talking Stories about the rise in mental health problems in children and teens are everywhere. Especially since the pandemic began, more youth are experiencing a wide range of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and behavioral issues.

Mental health is health, and families should not hesitate to talk about any mental health concerns, just as they would freely talk about having a fever, upset stomach or leg pain.

But kids and their parents may not be as used to talking about mental health — their own or that of their friends and extended family members. Why is it we easily mention, “Uncle Henry fell and needs a hip replacement” but we only whisper, “Aunt Mabel is seeing a therapist so she’s not so anxious”?

When to take immediate action

First a note: If your child expresses suicidality, intense depression symptoms or other severe mental health concerns, it’s important to reach out to the child’s primary care provider or, if they have one established, the child’s mental health team. Those are the people to turn to when there are immediate concerns.

If the young person is actively suicidal or is in danger of injuring themselves or those around them, and is not able to stay safely at home, it’s important to seek out crisis emergency services. Alternatively, if their current mental health team has a plan in place to address these concerns, follow the plan.

Benefits of talking about mental health

Talking freely about mental health helps normalize the topic and decreases any lingering stigma. And just as importantly, it opens up the opportunity for concerns to be shared and addressed.

Yesenia Marroquin, PhD, a clinical psychologist in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has advice for how you can talk about mental health if you’re unsure how to start.

Read more

Youth talking to family If you’re a kid or teen, here are helpful tips for talking to your parents or caregiver about mental health. By recognizing that something isn’t feeling right, you are taking an important first step toward getting better. Read more.

Family talking to youth If you’re a parent, these ideas will put you in a position to best help your children. This includes examining your own attitude about mental health and potentially making adjustments so the young person feels comfortable opening up to you. Read more.

Family taking to physician If you’re a parent or a patient, here are tips on how to raise any concerns with your primary care provider. They have the experience to determine what is typical teen behavior and what are the signs that an issue needs to be addressed. Read more.

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