Care for Hurting Kids

Look around the news for a few minutes, and it’s easy to start feeling a bit down on the world. Look around for a little longer, and you’ll likely see some upsetting news about teenagers….cyberbullying, school shootings, suicide and crime just to name a few. Yes, many of our teens are suffering, and they need our help. If you read only one more sentence of this blog, please read the next sentence.

If there is a teenager in your life whom you think is in danger from him/herself, or may be a danger to someone else, please contact a healthcare professional immediately.

There are countless numbers of issues that our kids are up against today, and the list doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. In our particular communities in the South Hills of Pittsburgh, there is an enormous trend towards a thought pattern that makes college seem like the only possible option after high school. Along with that pattern comes the notion that dollars and cents are equal to value and worth. Sports and activities take up more and more of a students’ time as she grows which eats into her time with family, relaxation and leisure. These pressures certainly add up quickly.

In this context, it’s not difficult to understand the prevalence of some very common mental health issues in our teens. The National Institute of Mental Health ( has published statistics revealing that more than 10% of our teen students have experienced a Major Depressive Episode in recent years, and that more than 25% of teenagers are likely to experience an Anxiety Disorder. Let’s take a conservative stance on this and say that 1 in 5 teenagers that you know are likely to suffer from some form of diagnosable mental health disorder before they graduate high school. This is equally shocking and predictable.

Speaking from a professional standpoint, here are my three top suggestions for someone desiring to help a teenager they know who may be suffering…

  1. Get in touch with a professional. The number of parents and adults I know of who “thought they could help” but ended up caught up in the suffering keeps growing. It will benefit both your child and you to recognize when you are in over your head, and when to get in touch with professional resources…don’t wait.

  2. Stay educated. Learn about normal teen development, and keep up to date with changes and events in your child’s life. Context is deeply important when it comes to understanding any teen’s situation – and context comes in lots of forms. Did his girlfriend ignore him today? Did she get a bad grade? Are they changing friend groups? Has puberty hit yet? Know your child.

  3. Show love and support. Sometimes love looks like a hug, and sometimes it looks like a restriction. Sometimes he’ll desire your support, sometimes he’ll hate you for it. A healthy balance of love and limits is necessary to any parent/child relationship. As we’ve spoken about for weeks, one of your child’s most basic needs is a need to feel connected and to feel like he/she belongs: let him know that he is a deeply important part of your family, let her know that she is loved beyond her imagination. Love your kids, and let them know it.

I’ll even throw in a bonus….

  1. Remember that your child is amazing! There is no other kid like yours, look for their strengths and let them know that you see them!

This is an issue that can take up hours of discussion and pages of ink – please get in touch with me if there are any questions that I may be able to answer.

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