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  • Writer's pictureDelia Iaboni

Mental Illness and young adults_how parents can help

You may think that once you’re out of high school, you’re finished growing up. Physically, you may be the tallest you’ll ever get, whereas mentally as a young adult, you’re not fully grown and are still in that brain development phase.

Adolescence is a unique and formative time. Normally a teenager will act differently, will be moody and tired from time to time, which is considered to be a part of those years but, there is a fine line between “normal” teenage behavior and mental illness. Physical, emotional and social changes, including exposure to poverty, abuse, or violence, can make adolescents vulnerable to mental health problems. Children in those ages are given a lot of responsibilities in a short period of time. Keeping balance of the grades, the parties everyone goes to and probably the job which is necessary for the upcoming college days, is not going to be easy on a child. In high school not everyone is a person of their own, not everyone knows themselves because they’re still undergoing that character development, not knowing what is right or wrong. Media influence and gender norms can exacerbate the disparity between an adolescent’s lived reality and their perceptions or aspirations for the future. Falling into different friend groups with different perspectives can be confusing and may lead them into doing and thinking things that shouldn’t.

Whether one heads off to college or makes their own way in the world, likely gaining a great deal of independence at that point in life, moving away from their parents and beginning to take care of themselves, it’s important for them to know that there is still a lot to learn and the development process is not over. The changes that take place in the brain during our early twenties affect how new experiences and new pieces of information are synthesized. This brain growth tends to coincide with a loosening of parental controls and possibly the freedom of attending college. The types of experiences, both good and bad, a young adult encounters can significantly shape brain development in this new stage of life, which comes with intense emotions and feelings, often increasing the risk for mental health concerns.

Additionally in this time of life, the desire we biologically have to be more independent, makes it a critical time for you, as a parent, to understand what they are going through and how it may be affecting their mental health. When your child appears to be showing signs of a mental health disorder, it is hard to know what to do at that very moment. While you may feel that it is your duty to protect them, your child’s needs may be more than you can handle on your own. Trying to have a conversation and understanding the problems they might be having should always be your first step. Before being a parent, you must be a friend in situations like these, to make your children feel safe and welcomed so they can open up. After you have tried creating a comfortable home environment and eliminating unnecessary stress in their lives, that is when you should seek professional help, especially if your child could be a danger to themselves or others, is abusing alcohol or other substances, or appears to have a break from reality. The characteristics of an assessment by healthcare professionals can affect suicide risk identification and response, with a compassionate approach by far the most useful and potentially life saving, as patients are more likely to disclose their suicidal thoughts.

Receiving a mental health diagnosis is difficult, but it doesn’t mean to give up on your dreams or plans for your future. Most young adults with a mental illness, through the right treatment and support can learn to successfully manage their symptoms, finish college, enter the workforce and last but not least improve their relationships with their parents, siblings, and friends so they can enjoy healthy, happy futures.

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