Parents may be among the first to notice when a teen starts to suffer with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Whether it is loss of interest in normal activities, lack of enthusiasm, irritability, anxiety, poor concentration or another warning sign, these clues can alert adults that a teen is distressed.
Many concerned adults want to do something to help struggling teens, and this guide can help concerned parents know whether they should take their teen to therapy, the nearest emergency room for another treatment level.
Wyoming Behavioral Institute has been serving children and adolescents experiencing mental health crises for more than 20 years, and we have compiled a list of important things to know about mental health inpatient care, therapy and crisis care for teens. Although you may feel like this is new territory, our mental health professionals are very familiar with adolescent mental health and can help.
It Is Common for Teens to Feel This Way
Many parents worry about their teens and feel overwhelmed by trying to get mental health treatment with and for them. What parents sometimes do not realize is that though their teen may be experiencing these symptoms for the first time, and it may seem scary, mental health issues in teens are extremely common and our mental health professionals specialize in caring for youth.
The CDC outlined figures for common mental health problems in youth:
ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children. Estimates for ever having a diagnosis among children aged 3-17 years, in 2016-19, are below.
- ADHD 9.8% (approximately 6.0 million)
- Anxiety 9.4% (approximately 5.8 million)
- Behavior problems 8.9% (approximately 5.5 million)
- Depression 4.4% (approximately 2.7 million)
Source: Centers for Disease Control
What Are the Levels of Care for Mental Health?
Something that can help parents decide what level of mental health care is appropriate for their teen is understanding the different tiers and admission criteria for each level of care. There are four levels of treatment available at Wyoming Behavioral Institute:
- Outpatient Teletherapy
- Intensive Outpatient Teletherapy (IOP)
- Acute Psychiatric Hospitalization
- Residential Treatment Program
Most parents know about therapy and its potential benefits. Outpatient therapy can be used for anyone who needs support for mental health issues. Frequency can be low, once a month, or quite frequently, weekly or twice weekly. The admission criteria are low so anyone who feels they would benefit from therapy is invited to try a few sessions.
For parents who know their teen needs help but do not know where to start, setting them up with a therapist is recommended.
Intensive Outpatient Teletherapy
Treatment is three times a week for three hours. This is for teens who need more support than weekly visits with a therapist, but who do not meet criteria for a higher level of care.
Acute Psychiatric Hospitalization
When a teen is in crisis, it may become necessary to admit them to a psychiatric unit for a short stay to stabilize. Psychiatric stays are normally only five to eight days. Outpatient care is recommended after inpatient care.
Residential treatment is when the patient resides in a treatment program for a matter of weeks, and sometimes months. Programs vary in length. Residential programs can address behavioral issues, addictions, mental health problems, and a host of other issues. School also is a priority.
Teens Are Influenced by Their Friends
Although many parents are aware, it is important to remember that teens are highly susceptible to pressure from their peers. Penn State University researchers studied teen behaviors, and “compared to boys, girls tend to be more influenced by their friends to engage in delinquent behavior, which includes skipping class and fighting.”
 How winning friends may influence adolescent behaviors | Penn State University (psu.edu)
Parents Can Encourage Health Habits and Coping Skills
Parents can have a major impact on their teens’ mental health. Praise and encouragement for positive behaviors and healthy habits, as well as providing opportunities for their teens to have healthy experiences can help teens develop a healthy self-image and lifestyle.
We Can Help
If your teen is in crisis, do not hesitate to get help. Wyoming Behavioral Institute can provide a no-cost level of care recommendation, available by simply calling 800-457-9312.