How to Support a Teenager with a Mental Illness

Trying to care for a teenager who has been diagnosed with a mental illness can be a challenging and stressful time for any parent, with emotions running high on both sides. Of course, you want to support your child in the best way you can, but how are you supposed to do this? They simply do not face the same struggles that you did as a teenager. Not only do they have regular bullying to contend with, but now they also have to deal with the abundance of cyberbullying. Couple that with peer pressure, body shaming and the need to portray a perfect life on social media at all times, and it’s no wonder that the number of teenagers suffering from a mental illness is on the rise.

So, what should you do as a parent to support your teenager with a mental illness?

Educate Yourself About Mental Illness

Whether your teenager is suffering from an anxiety disorder, depression, or an eating disorder, it can be extremely helpful for you to read up on their specific mental health problem. This can help you to not only recognize the warning signs but also help to explain why they have been affected by mental illness and how you can help them to cope.

Don’t Stay Silent

However tempting it may be, simply ignoring your teenager’s mental illness and hoping it will go away on its own is the worst thing you can do for your child. Luckily there is a lot less stigma around mental health issues than there was only a few years ago, so embrace this openness and talk to your teenager about their disorder. Even more importantly, always be there to listen when they want to talk to you about their illness. Of course, it will be horrible to hear your child talk about things such as suicidal thoughts, but it is indefinitely better than letting them suffer in silence.

Consider Enlisting the Help of a Treatment Center

If you feel that you cannot cope with your teenager’s mental illness on your own or you feel that they need a trained medical professional to help them, then there is no shame in seeking professional support. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia, for example, can be incredibly scary for a parent as extreme weight loss can lead to a whole host of very dangerous health problems. Therefore, a treatment center such as, which specializes in eating disorders such as binge eating and bulimia nervosa, can be invaluable in helping your teenager recover.

Do Not Become an Enabler

Of course, you want to help your teenager in any way you can, but you need to make sure that you are being supportive rather than acting as an enabler. Your teenager needs to take responsibility for their own actions and commit themselves to their road to recovery. However much you want them to get better, they need to want to get better for themselves in order to be successful. Therefore, you should avoid doing too much for them, such as doing their homework or carrying out their household chores.

Similarly, if they are suffering from an eating disorder, do not cook them specific meals or allow them to eat in secret. There is a very fine line between being a caring and supportive parent and becoming an enabler. If in doubt, a mental health specialist will be able to advise you on the best ways to support your teen.

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