When considering how to help teenagers with mental health, it's important to think about not only how you can support them emotionally, but also how you can provide practical guidance.
With so much going on at this critical moment in your teen’s life, it’s vital for them to stay on top of their mental health and put positive processes in place that will equip them for their adult years.
Many teenagers, however, feel as though their parents don't understand mental health or the implications it can have on everyday life. Discussions around mental health should be a priority in your home, as the mental health of your teen can affect the entire family.
We’ve put together a range of helpful mental health resources for parents that will assist you in understanding your teen’s needs. There’s also a list of practical mental health resources for teens that you can share to help improve the overall wellbeing of your family.
Mental health is a big topic to tackle. Let’s start with background information and work our way to advice and support.
What is mental health?
People often associate the term ‘mental health’ with conditions such as teenage anxiety and depression, but these conditions are only one part of its extensive definition, which encompasses both wellness and illness.
Mental health is about our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Our mental health affects many aspects of our lives, including our relationships with others and our choices. Achieving a positive state of mental health is about being able to cope with the everyday stresses of life.
What affects my teen’s mental health?
There are many factors that can positively or negatively affect your child’s mental health. These may include:
the behaviour of others towards them
family history of mental illness
their brain’s chemical makeup
their living and social situations.
How to help teenagers with mental health
The best way to support your teen with their mental health is to be as open and proactive as possible about discussions on the topic. Once you have determined what your teen may need your help with – this could be a condition such as anxiety or depression, or coping mechanisms for everyday stresses – you can then recommend helpful resources that will assist them in cultivating a positive state of mental wellbeing.
The important thing is to keep the conversation going and make it clear to your teen that they can talk to you about their mental health at any time.
Mental health resources for teens
There are so many helpful mental health resources available online for teens these days. This is great news because it means your child can try out a range to find the one that works best for them. Whether it’s a self-guided meditation app, or a podcast produced by their peers, they’re sure to find at least one resource that will assist them to nurture their mental health.
We’ve put together a list for you to share with your teen to encourage them to be proactive about their mental health. You could even try them out together.
Always trial these mental health resources for teens before recommending them to your child. You are the best judge of what type of content your teen will potentially find triggering, engaging, distressing or helpful, based on their individual personality and history.
Mental health apps for teens
Calm: focuses on mindfulness and meditation exercises.
HeadGear: engages your teen in practical activities and challenges that will help to improve their wellbeing and resilience, and combat teenage anxiety and depression.
iBobbly: provides helpful tools to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teens in managing their social and emotional wellbeing.
Best mental health podcasts for young adults
MentalMusic: weaves discussions about mental health around influential songs, like a mental wellbeing centred radio show. This podcast, made specifically for teens, by teens, is great for those who have strong emotional connections to music.
Teenage Therapy: effectively captures the everyday struggles of being a teenager. Five adolescent friends openly and honestly discuss issues important teens (with a strong focus on anxiety), making it one of the most relatable teenage anxiety podcasts out there.
Growing with the Flow: reflects on topics relevant to young women transitioning into adulthood. It’s a great podcast for teenage girls, with young host Nayna covering topics like body image, friendship and pursuing life goals, all while discussing the impact this has on her mental health.
Not Alone: reveals raw, real-life stories about mental health. Each episode, an everyday Australian shares their mental health journey to help listeners realise they aren’t alone in their struggles. These stories can be pretty confronting, so listener discretion is advised.
Mental health support for teenagers
Anxiety is an emotion commonly felt by teenagers as they navigate big changes and strive to find their place in the world. Whether your teenager has an anxiety disorder or is having difficulties coping with situation-based anxiety (perhaps due to exams or sporting competitions), interacting with peers experiencing the same emotions may help.
Headspace offers mental health advice, guidance and support to young people aged 15-25. Their centres usually hold programs and activities for teens experiencing anxiety, to help them connect with others in the same boat and learn coping strategies for moving forward.
Is your teen more likely to open up via online chat rather than through face-to-face support groups? Headspace also runs online group chat sessions facilitated by a Headspace professional. Your child can easily join in on the conversation online with their peers via live chat.
Mental health resources for parents
The internet is bursting with websites, articles and forums all claiming to provide the best advice for parents hoping to find guidance on teenage mental health support. It’s extremely important to check the reliability of online resources and only take into account the advice of well-respected organisations. You may find, however, that some advice is not relevant to your teen. It’s about discovering what’s going to work for their personality and way of thinking.
Here are a few respected institutions that offer advice on mental health for parents:
There are many mental health advice books out there for concerned parents, especially those looking for books on teenage anxiety and depression. You may choose to seek advice from a book that drills in on a specific mental illness, or one that takes a more holistic approach to discussing mental health. Whichever is the case, be sure to check the date the book was published so you know you’re receiving the most recent advice. Mental health is a topic that’s widely studied, and health professionals and scientists are regularly making new discoveries in this area.
Support for parents of teens with a mental illness
Caring for someone with a mental illness can be tough. This is why there are face-to-face and online communities with a focus on mental health support for parents of teenagers with a mental illness. Your mental health is important too, and it’s completely OK to admit that you also need support.
Talking to other parents going through the same thing as you can be reassuring and cathartic. Just remember that one person’s experience does not necessarily mean you’ll have the same experience with your teen. Support groups and forums are a place to air concerns, seek and give support. You should always consult a professional for advice.
If you’re looking for a local face-to-face support group for parents of mentally ill teens, visiting Support Groups Queensland is a good place to start. You can search for support groups near you on the website, or call a team member for personalised recommendations.
For parents’ mental health support groups nationwide, Black Dog Institute has a good list of options for each state and territory.
Did you know that lack of sleep can negatively affect your teen’s mental health? Read our article How much sleep do teenagers need? to find out how you can help your teen to be well rested and improve their overall wellbeing.