5 Common Myths About Mental Health in Teens

5 Common Myths About Mental Health in Teens

Despite many common misconceptions and beliefs, illnesses related to mental health do not selectively target only adults. Mental health conditions are becoming increasingly common among youth and teens throughout the United States and worldwide. Recent studies suggest that approximately one in five teens have symptoms of at least one diagnosable mental health condition.

A study from 2019 published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology suggests the teen mental health crisis continues to grow. Many mental health professionals and medical community members have referred to the increasing trend in teens seeking and needing mental health treatment and care as an “epidemic.” The same study provided troubling statistics concerning the continued rise in mental health issues among teens between 2009 and 2017. 

  • Diagnoses of major depression in teens ages sixteen and seventeen increased by a staggering 69%.
  • Feelings of hopelessness and anxiety increased by 71% among youth and young adults ages seventeen to twenty-five.
  • One out of five adolescent and teen girls (ages 12-17) had experienced major depression within the past twelve months.
  • Between 2008 and 2017, the suicide rate among teens (ages eighteen to nineteen) increased by 56%.


The Life of a Teenager with Mental Health Concerns

A teen’s life is often seen as less stressful and more carefree than that of adults. While teens’ daily lives have their fair share of highs and lows, for the most part, teens are bound by the same stressors and responsibilities as adults. When one considers how many adults share this thought process, it may come as a surprise to learn that statistics have shown approximately 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness will develop before the individual reaches the age of seventeen. 

This, and many other myths surrounding teen mental health, are among the key reasons many teens who could benefit from teen-focused mental health treatment do not seek or receive the help they need. Below we discuss (and debunk) a few of the most common myths about teen mental health. 

Myth 1: Teens with A Mental Health Condition Need to Take Medication

Some parents and many teens are hesitant (or steadfastly resistant) to seek mental health treatment because they fear they will need to take mental health medications. For many teens, there are common stigmas and stereotypes associated with having to take medication for mental health conditions. Teens under treatment and taking medication are often viewed differently by their peers. Therefore, the concern about being “medicated” is at the forefront of many teens’ minds. Still, it is important to remember that not all mental health treatment programs involve the use of medications.


Before prescribing medication of any kind, your teen’s therapist will ask a lot of questions. These questions will address your teen’s symptoms, other possible connected symptoms or co-occurring disorders, mental health history, family history, medical history, and social history (substance use, etc.). Their treatment team will address all of that information before medications are considered as part of a treatment program.


Medications are not appropriate for all cases, and what may work for one person may have adverse effects on another. If medication makes sense, their provider will discuss the risks, benefits, and alternatives to a specific drug. In the end, even if medication is deemed beneficial, a therapist cannot force your teen to take it if they are adamantly against it, except in very few highly emergent situations. 


Myth 2: Teenage Mental Illness is Rare

As noted in the statistics above, teenage mental health concerns are far from rare. Statistics from the National Alliance on Mental Illness show one in every five teens will experience a mental illness at some point in their lives. Or think of it this way. If your child is in a classroom of thirty students, approximately 6 have or will develop a mental illness. 


Part of the reason many people believe teen mental illness is uncommon or “rare’ is that most youth and teens who live with mental illness symptoms continue to engage in all of their usual obligations and responsibilities. They attend class, have after-school jobs, play sports, and do everything else their peers do; they just do so while living with mental illness symptoms. 


Myth 3: Teens with a Mental Illness are “crazy” or dangerous

A very dangerous misconception about teen mental illness is that teens with mental health conditions are dangerous, crazy, or violent. This myth can be particularly harmful to teens because those with a mental health condition might be more likely to be the victims of bullying or be ostracized by their classmates. Also, they may actively avoid seeking help because they do not want their peers to see them as different. 


In reality, many people see a therapist at some point in their lives. If your teen’s classmates were to be surveyed about their therapy history, many of their classmates have likely talked to a therapist of some kind at some point. Seeking help outside of parents and teachers for emotions and stressful situations is just as important to your teen’s overall health as getting help with a medical issue such as diabetes or asthma.


Myth 4: Teen Mental Health Concerns are Caused by Poor Parenting

One of the more distressing myths and misconceptions about teenage mental illness is that it’s caused by poor parenting. There are many different causes of mental health conditions in children, teenagers, and adults. Some environmental factors that might cause worsening mental health issues include:


  • Trauma
  • Abuse
  • Neglect


Conditions like depression, learning disorders, anxiety, and autism are believed to have biological or genetic causes. Although parenting is not the key reason mental health conditions develop, it is crucial to remember that parents and caretakers play a pivotal role in providing care and support, which are essential for their child’s recovery. 


Myth 5: It’s Just Hormones

On the surface, bad behavior in schools is often seen as a sign that a young person is simply acting out their frustration at struggling academically. The solution is usually to punish the student. If the child has a known or unknown mental health problem, this is not the best way to handle the situation. Instead, it’s often a matter of digging under the surface to discover the true cause of the teen’s emotional or behavioral change. 


Brain development in the teenage years is rapid and dramatic, and there is a lot of change and turmoil. It can be challenging to determine what is typical teen behavior and what is a sign of a much more severe problem. This is particularly relevant to conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 


Knowing When It Is Time To Seek Help

Having a teen who is struggling to manage mental health symptoms can be challenging. It is crucial to remember that there are ways to make the difficulties less disruptive to their personal and social lives and the dynamic within your family. The first thing you must do is acknowledge your teen’s symptoms. This includes paying attention to changes in behavior, mood, and emotions. Seeking treatment at a teen-focused program like Hillcrest early is essential, as mental health conditions often worsen without therapeutic intervention. 


Other ways to help your teen manage their mental health include learning all that you can about their mental health condition, working with their school to ensure they are receiving the appropriate support services, and working with your child to “find a new normal” as they work with a treatment provider to understand and overcome their symptoms. 


Getting help for your teen at the first sign of symptoms provides a more significant opportunity to achieve lasting, positive recovery. For some parents, this is the most difficult step to take. Parents commonly feel as though reaching out for help is a sign of weakness or failure as a parent. Nothing could be further from the truth. The advantages of seeking professional help for your teen and family at our Los Angeles treatment program far outweigh trying to manage your teen’s mental health without support and guidance. 


Knowing When It Is Time To Seek Help cont.


Our team of mental health professionals has years of combined experience helping teens and their families overcome mental health challenges. Many evidence-based medications and therapy models are used to treat mental health conditions in teens. We understand that choosing the right combination of treatments and post-therapeutic support is essential to the recovery process. Because mental health symptoms affect everyone differently, the best treatment option or options for your teen will differ from those that work for someone else. We will work with your family to develop a therapy plan designed explicitly around your teen’s treatment needs and goals. 


Unfortunately, mental health conditions do not resolve independently. Most symptoms inevitably worsen without treatment and mental health care, making a recovery more difficult and complex. There is nothing shameful, odd, or abnormal about seeking help to learn to manage mental your mental health needs. Let our team at Hillcrest in Los Angeles help your teen take the first steps on their journey to a lifetime of emotional and spiritual health and wellness. 


To learn more about our Los Angeles area teen residential treatment program, contact a member of our admissions team today. We are here to teach you more about how individualized mental health treatment and recovery plans can help your teen. And as their time with us at Hillcrest comes to an end, we will work with your family to ensure a strong continuum of care is in place. Adequate aftercare planning provides your teen with ongoing access to ongoing medical, mental health, and other supports they need to continue in their recovery. Contact us today to learn more