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How do you talk to teens about mental health? Join the discussion - 10 Hot Key books to be won plus a £100 donation to Mind

32 replies

SorchaMumsnet · 14/11/2016 17:05

Every year, statistics show a worrying increase in the number of young people suffering from mental health problems. With new daily pressures from constant social networking, media imagery and difficulties gaining employment or education, there are more struggles than ever for the young people of today.

Whether you or a friend or family member struggle with mental health issues or you’re just interested in learning more, Mind Your Head is an accessible and frank look at the facts, using Juno Dawson’s trademark wit, Dr Olivia Hewitt’s clinical psychology experience and Gemma Correll’s entertaining illustrations.

Covering topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders, Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people's mental health - whether fleeting or long-term - and how to manage them, with real-life stories from young people around the world.

How do you talk to the teenager in your life about mental health? For telling us your tips, a donation of £100 will be made by Hot Key Books to Mind, the mental health charity. In addition, one winner will be able to pick 10 books from the Hot Key and Piccadilly Press catalogue.

This discussion is sponsored by Hot Key Books and will close on 12 December

Books T&Cs apply

How do you talk to teens about mental health? Join the discussion - 10 Hot Key books to be won plus a £100 donation to Mind
How do you talk to teens about mental health? Join the discussion - 10 Hot Key books to be won plus a £100 donation to Mind
OP posts:
Unicorn34 · 17/11/2016 12:18

My 15yr old "son" is transgender FTM, and has suffered with anxiety, depression and disphoria for many years. The only way I find supportive to them is to keep real - but in a gentle way... no shouting, guilt trips, "don't be silly" comments.... we have built trust between us (a must) and being non-judgemental is imperative. Teens will always back away if you confront them, its in their nature.

Keeping a calm voice (even if you want to scream) and listening is the way with my teen. You will repeat yourself many times. Keep it simple, don't go into things too much if they are "shut down" - and most importantly .... let them know you are there for them, no matter what

LifeIsGhoulish · 17/11/2016 15:54

Acknowledge that their fears and worries are real to them, and that the way these feelings manifest physically is real, too. I ask my teen to tell me worst case scenario, reflect it, then best case scenario, reflect it, then likely scenario. It often helps. Even if it doesn't 'solve' the problem, it changes the rumination.

Petitcanard · 17/11/2016 20:34

Open and honest communication is really important. This is equally important during periods of positivity as well as during more difficult times since this reinforces the idea of sharing our thoughts and feelings. Acknowledging concerns and worries, then offering reassurance that their feelings are valid is helpful too. Just knowing that someone is willing to listen and accept you, even in your darkest times, is a great message to pass on to your teens.

FeelingSmurfy · 19/11/2016 09:24

I think it starts very young, encourage them to talk and not bottle things up, allow them to be open and honest

With teens be willing to talk on their level, even if that means a serious conversation takes place via text while you are in the same house. It can be easier for them to open up that way could lead to a proper conversation or the whole thing could be done that way. It doesn't matter how it happens as long as it happens

lgalb5 · 19/11/2016 09:50

I try and empathise with how difficult it is to be a teenager growing up these days for a number of reasons such as those mentioned above. I try and let them know it is ok and often very normal to feel the way the do. I encourage them to self-care ie making sure they are looking after themselves, whether that is finding something their interested in and doing it more often, or doing any bit of exercise to make themselves feel better even going for a walk, using apps such as mindfulness ones, listening to music they like, reminding them that social media is often a pretence which makes us feel rubbish, trying to stick with friends who are positive and supportive, and most importantly being able to talk to people about how they are feeling.

lottietiger · 21/11/2016 20:05

Creating trust is a must and believing what they say. It mAy seem silly or insignificant to you but to them it's a big deal. Don't brush off with you'll feel better tomorrow or don't be silly. Let them know you will be there when you need them.

nessa46 · 21/11/2016 20:40

my daughter has dyslexia and dyspraxia, which has meant she has struggled to find friends(ones that understand her) and also emotionally she can seem immature, she finds it hard reading other people, and fitting in.i worry that it may lead to some kind of depression or anxiety, she has always been honest and open with me, which means she tells me of any worries she has, and I listen and reassure ,I don't judge or offer negative answers . I hope lots of love can see us through any rough days.

notrocketscience · 21/11/2016 20:41

Listen and try really hard not to dive in with well meaning advice but give them your full attention and really listen. It's rare that someone really takes the time to listen without sharing their own stories. Don't have a conversation just hear what they are saying and encourage them to talk openly. No judgement and if you can, allow them the space to find their solutions as you listen. It's tough to do but when it succeeds oh boy is it worth it.

Debsie123 · 21/11/2016 20:52

I think the most important thing that I do is listen. My Daughter has gone through stages of being depressed and starting self harming when she went to secondary school and I just listened to what was worrying her and tried to rationalise her fears and put them into perspective without being judgemental. Don't ever say 'it's all in your head' or think that they will get over it because they might not. You know your child best, look for clues. I know when my Daughter is starting to feel down or something is worrying her as she starts to become snappy and that's when I ask her what's wrong and she is can talk to me about it or sometimes she writes it down because she is more comfortable doing that. I have always emphasised that she can talk to me about anything but I have also given her useful telephone numbers of places such as Mind that she knows she can call if she feels more comfortable talking to someone she doesn't know. Love, support and open discussions are key in my opinion.

bootygirl · 21/11/2016 21:04

I have 2 teens both with ADD and I think honesty is best policy and try to encourage them to be physically active in both team sports & individual exercise.

glenka · 21/11/2016 21:21

Having suffered from mental health problems myself for many years I know how important it is to always be there for them and let them know they can talk about any troubles they might have.

smithsurvey14 · 21/11/2016 21:55

We tried to point out to our 16 year old that she was showing signs of depression by changing her eating habits, staying in her bedroom when at home, being moody and snappy but instead of opening up to us she just shouted at us that she wasn't depressed and leave her alone. We stepped back and gave her some space, after all you can't force someone to talk to you.

cambridgemumof4 · 21/11/2016 22:37

I agree about listening and starting young. I also try to share some of my thoughts or those of friend's or even those I've read about in autobiographies, in a 'telling a story' way, so they can hear about real-life situations rather than think these things only happen to other people......

Susangilley7 · 22/11/2016 10:05

The most important thing is to listen and not interrupt them when they talk. And never belittle or patronize them.

kateandme · 22/11/2016 14:30

always let them know I'm here.let them know they can and must talk to anyone. that any fears they feel.shame.embarressment or guilt or badness is just so realy but might not be fact. thoughts not facts. and to let someone in even if they ignore the advice just open that inner demon out so its not trapped inside revolving around creating more demons inside of them.
to show them they are make them feel good.
to do things that make them feel they can trust.
give them always.
look out for any signs or triggers.
listening always trying not to lecture.
just being there,always being there with kindness.

deepdarkwood · 23/11/2016 11:32

I find walks are a great time to have conversations/encourage opening up: away from the pressures/to do lists; and open air always puts things in perspective somehow. Plus not face-to-face so less confrontation. And I find walking disipates anger/makes me more thoughtful anyway.

And this is going to sound too babyish for a teen - but something I've recently started doing by accident with ds who is rising 13 is to talk to him at bedtime through a new favourite cuddly. It enables the cuddly/me to ask 'tough' questions without it being me prying somehow (e.g. worst thing at school today); and the cuddly's persona is cheeky/OTT so he says things that I wouldn't say (or would get grumped at for saying). Plus it's the end of day/after lights out space which imo is always a good one for chats.

notagiraffe · 23/11/2016 19:29

I agree with deep dark wood that DC open up on walks. WE live near hills and woodland, so I drag one or the other (sometimes both) teens out for a good walk at least once a week. I also make sure I have one-to-one time with them.
We check in each night too. They seem to find it easier to chat when they're lying down in the dark. That's when they mention stuff that's troubling them.

DS 2 has Asbergers and Dyspraxia as well as a few mild physical handicaps. He is a cup half empty boy with very little self-confidence as a result of his struggles with all his ailments. (I wish he could see himself as others do - clever and handsome and talented and very funny, but he constantly judges himself against taller, sportier boys who are top of the class.)
Because of this I have over the years done some CBT workbooks with him (not systematically, just when the need comes up) There's a special one for aspergic teens which we look at from time to time, and he knows the CBT vocab now, so I can ask him if he thinks he's catastrophising or falling for black and white thinking, and encourage him to balance out negative thoughts with positive ones.
DS1 is far more closed emotionally, but also very direct and honest. He says he is very happy most of the time and I think he is. However he did have a very upsetting experience of falling out with a group of close friends and he bottled it up for over a week, until I finally spotted something was up. When I asked why he'd said nothing, he said he just dealt with it. I have sympathy with that. My instinct is to shut others out and sort out my own problems, not share them, so provided he's able to and not unhappy generally, I let him work things out his own way.

deepdarkwood · 23/11/2016 20:28

Notagiraffe - can you ping up a link for those books - my ds is a cup half empty/dyslexic/probable HFA and that workbook sounds like it would be great for him!

We are currently also doing '100 happy days' in the run up to Christmas and every member of the family has to talk about their happiest moment over the supper table & we are putting them in a pot to look at in the new year when everything is grey and january-ish. That has been a good conversation starter, and a good way to talk about good coming out of hard situations etc.

notagiraffe · 23/11/2016 22:46

Hi deepdark

The Asperger teen book is this one

and the other - more for parents iirc is this

love your 100 happy days in a jar idea. I think DH needs this as much as DS2

deepdarkwood · 23/11/2016 22:54

Thanks. The 100 happy days thing is rather lovelier and less naff than I expected - but yes, my dh has had to be told "noo, HAPPY things. That was a GRUMPY thing" a few times....

CopperPan · 24/11/2016 08:10

DS2 has had problems with his mental health in the past as he has autism and it's been hard to get adequate provision in schools, so his mental health has suffered. For us it's been about getting the right and timely intervention (he has been under CAMHS but we've also used private services as they are pretty limited), giving him time to reflect and always being open for talks. Some of the times he's opened up most has been when we have just been doing normal everyday things rather than setting up a session for a big talk - that would put him under too much pressure. For us it's been important to spend lots of time with our teens so they know we're there, even if they don't seem to need us around as much.

babyowl · 29/11/2016 15:35
  1. Starting as young as possible & on a regular basis....
    Play, Walk, read, watch TV, shop but do something together that brings you together & engages both of you with shared common ground/point of reference that you can both relate to.

    This will help so that you can...
  2. Be available & ready & willing to listen

  3. Listening & being fully present to focus on them rather than you or your interpretation of the issues.

    Don't interrupt, don't patronize, don't look at/answer your phone/watch.
    Sometimes, a listener is all they want & need so air out & make sense of what is going on.

  4. Acknowledgement/ validation that sometimes there are no quick easy answers/solutions

  • Sometimes, problems will eventually pass of their own accord
  • Other times, they will continue, but just fade to the background as life & other priorities shift
  • Sometimes you will be able to brainstorm possible options, actions & consequences to make a decision to change a situation but in the case of things that difficult to change, you have to find a way of accepting & moving on

5) Quite often we already know what answer/solution is needed & we just need the time & space to work out what that is.
Sometimes it's easier to imagine giving advice to a friend with the problem you have in mind to force yourself to think more objectively about things.

As a teen/young adult & even now, these are some of the things that helped me (in no particular order):
A) Reading as a form of escapism
B) Doing an active sport (e.g. walking, swimming, even just being & doing something outdoors with a sense of purpose)
C) Doing an activity (e.g. art, music, singing)
D) Writing/journaling (as long as privacy is respected)
E) Write down the best things that happened that week or that day in my diary/calendar.
F) Write about a happy memory on a post-it note, fold it & put in a jar/box. Add to the jar/box over time.

When I am feeling down I read from (E) or (F) to cheer myself up or from my journal from a previous year.
purplepandas · 09/12/2016 19:08

Be honest, willing to listen and calm. I agree that it is important to have conversations early on.

Whattocallbabyboy · 09/12/2016 21:57

Car journeys are good. Lack of eye contact appeals to teens discussing difficult subjects.

PossumInAPearTree · 10/12/2016 11:08

I really worry about dd who is 15yo. She says she wishes she was dead, has panic attacks, seems anxious and depressed and often won't leave the house for weeks on end. i have to wait for her to initiate any conversations. If I try and start one she blows up.

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