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Erasing the Stigma: How to Talk to Teens About Mental Health

by Diana Dardu

It’s estimated that one in five adults will experience some form of mental health condition in their lifetime. Because mental health conditions are so common, it’s important to open up and talk to your teens about this tough topic. By doing so, you’ll prepare your teen for emotionally healthy adulthood. Of course, to do that, you’ll have to learn how to talk to your teen about such a difficult subject in the first place. Not to worry, we can help.

Keep reading for a quick and easy guide on how to talk to teens about mental health.

Be Honest

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Your teenager thinks they’re all grown up. Meanwhile, you still see them as your baby. That perspective won’t ever disappear, but it can’t color your discussion of mental health issues. If you’re not careful, it can come across like you’re talking down to your teen.

Take an open and honest approach that tackles the subject with the seriousness it deserves. If you trust that your teen is mature enough to handle such a tough subject, you’ll be more likely to start a dialogue.

Talk About What Mental Health Looks Like

Misconceptions in pop culture and everyday life are some of the biggest reasons why there’s still a stigma surrounding mental health.

Netflix‘s “13 Reasons Why” for instance, came under serious scrutiny for its characterization of suicide as a means of revenge. Likewise, certain words and phrases we use all the time, like calling someone crazy or saying that their behavior is bipolar don’t help matters, either.

While the above examples are frustrating — and downright dangerous in some cases — they’re also valuable teaching tools. Watching a show like “13 Reasons Why” is a great way to open the door to further discussions about what mental health issues really look like and how wrong most stereotypes surrounding mental health are.

Tell Them About Your Experiences

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Studies from Stanford concluded that mental health conditions are often hereditary. If you or someone else in your family are currently or have struggled with mental health in the past, it’s important to broach these subjects with your kids, just as you would any other health condition. Open up and make yourself vulnerable. Tell them about your past experiences and let them know that it’s okay to struggle.

People with mental health conditions are often viewed as ‘other’ of sorts. Because it’s talked about in such hushed tones, kids may get the wrong idea that there’s something wrong with them if they struggle with mental health. Using firsthand accounts of your encounters with mental health makes these conditions seem more tangible.

Let Them Ask Questions

Let’s face it, talking about mental health isn’t exactly light dinnertime chatter. Give the subject room to breathe and allow your teen time to ask questions. Do your best to answer as honestly as possible, no matter how tough it might seem. Honesty is the best policy for a reason.


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The most important thing you can do isn’t to speak, but to listen. Ask your teen questions, too. Ask whether they’ve ever experienced symptoms of a mental health condition or if they know anyone struggling with mental health. Once your teen sees that you’re willing to take a judgment-free approach, they’ll be more likely to come to you when an issue arises.

How to Talk to Teens About Mental Health: A Few Final Thoughts

Learning how to talk to teens about mental health does more than erase the stigma surrounding mental health — it can save lives. So as difficult as it might be, don’t put off these conversations any longer.

If you’re worried about your teen’s mental health, the professionals at Isaiah Counseling & Wellness (https://isaiahcounselingandwellness.com/) can help.

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