How to Help a Teenager with Mental Health Issues in Tennessee

May 24, 2024

Teenagers can have the same mental health conditions adults live with. The key difference to understand when you want to help a teenager with mental health issues is that there are some differences in brain structure and development, as well as the psychological and psychosocial differences that come with this developmental stage. Keeping communication open is important when helping a teen with mental health issues.

two teenage girls sitting on the ground
Teenagers can have the same mental health issues as adults. However, there are a few differences between their brains and adult brains.

Understanding Teenage Mental Health Issues

Teenagers can suffer from all sorts of mental illnesses. The key difference lies in the structure of the brain, not the diagnosis necessarily. Teenagers don’t have a fully developed frontal lobe. The development of this part of the brain goes well into adulthood. Neurotypical adults won’t have a fully-formed frontal lobe until around 25.

Adults with ADHD may not have a fully formed frontal lobe until the age of 35. During adolescence, the frontal lobe undergoes extensive remodeling and refinement, with continued synaptic pruning and myelination of neural pathways. This period is marked by significant cognitive and emotional development changes, including executive function, impulse control, and decision-making abilities.

Brain Development

During adolescence, the frontal lobe undergoes a process known as synaptic pruning, where unnecessary or redundant synaptic connections are eliminated, leading to more efficient neural networks. At the same time, myelination of axons increases, enhancing the speed and efficiency of neural transmission.

Psychological Differences

Another important difference between teenagers and adults is that, psychologically, teenagers are forming their sense of self during adolescence. While some people, for example, those with BPD, still struggle with forming a sense of self well into adulthood, this is characteristic of all teenagers. They may want to distance themselves from certain members of their family to show their distinctive selves during this time. This can lead to feelings of confusion, uncertainty about the future, undue pressure on oneself, isolation, and loneliness.

Psychosocial Differences

Psychosocially, there are many things to take into account when it comes to adolescence as a developmental period. The main two we will mention in this article are peer pressure and rebellious behavior. While developing their sense of self outside of their families, it is important for adolescents to have a sense of belonging with their peers. This means that adolescents are generally more vulnerable to doing harmful activities, not necessarily because they want to but because their peers are doing it, and they don’t want to be left out.

It’s also important to mention rebellious patterns of behavior. During adolescence individuals start to have abstract thinking related to their communities, societies, and their place within them. Consequently, they are pushed into disruptive behavior. This is an expected part of adolescence as a developmental stage, and you should refrain from judging a teen for their rebellious behavior, even if, from the outside, it seems they are rebelling just for revelry’s sake.

a view of Chattanooga, TN
Seeking help for a teen in Tennessee does not need to be a complex process

Seeking Help in Tennessee

It can be overwhelming to know where to start when it comes to trying to help a teenager with mental health issues. There is a mental health hotline for the state of Tennessee that you can call to get further information on what to do next: 855-CRISIS-1 (855-274-7471).

Other than that, you can call mental health centers such as Time Wellness Tennessee and ask about different treatment options.

Time Wellness Tennessee is prepared to take in teens with substance use disorder and other chronic mental health issues such as BPD, OCD, bipolar, and schizophrenia. We have programs specializing in teens and specific mental health concerns. Not all of them imply full hospitalization. In our bipolar disorder treatment center, there are several options. There are outpatient and partial hospitalization programs your teen child may qualify for depending on the characteristics of their support network and the severity of their disorder.

Teenagers walking through school
There are some tips to consider if you want to help a teenager with mental health issues.

Supporting a Teenager with Mental Health Issues

Here are a few actionable tips if you have a teenager struggling with their mental health.

#1 – Be as Judgment-Free As You Can

If your child is a teenager with mental health issues, you want to be someone they can say anything to. One of the things you can do to help them see you in this way is to refrain from passing judgment on what they do, think, and say. This can be a difficult thing to do, especially if you’re their parent. You want to raise a kind, compassionate adult, and this can often come across as judgment. However, it’s important for them to tell you what they’re going through without fear of judgment or punishment.

#2 – Provide Information to Empower Them in Their Choices

Keeping teens in the dark about the world they live in can do more harm than good. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is provide good, reliable information. This is the correct choice in the long term because it encourages open communication and making informed choices. Calmly inform your teen child of the logical consequences of their actions and let them live through the consequences of their actions. Inform them about safer sex, the use of recreational substances, and other risky behaviors. If they perceive you as someone who provides them with reliable information without judging them, they may refrain from doing unsafe practices just because they have information about their risks.

#3 – Don’t Underestimate Them

Remind yourself of your teenager’s age. They may not be adults yet, but they are not children either. During adolescence, they start developing their abstract cognitive reasoning and are able to think about complex issues just like an adult would. Don’t underestimate their intelligence; this may lead to them taking what you have to say far less seriously. Take the time to listen to them and appreciate their intelligence.

Two teenagers playing video games, showing that the best way to help a teenager with mental health issues is to understand them
With the right support, your teen with mental health issues can lead a happy, healthy life.

Do Your Best To Help a Teenager with Mental Health Issues

Teenagers come with their own set of difficulties when it comes to mental health. When asking yourself how to help a teenager with mental health issues in Tennessee, consider the fact that a teen may qualify for the same diagnosis as an adult. However, their brain is in the process of developing. Their frontal lobe isn’t fully developed yet. This means they can be more impulsive, less able to consider the risks of their actions, and less able to make informed decisions. They are also in the middle of psychological and psychosocial development, including developing their sense of self, being rebellious, and falling into peer pressure. This makes getting help for them more challenging than getting help for adults. Tennessee mental health centers are prepared to take in teens.