The teenage years are a whirlwind of emotions and experiences. It’s a time of incredible growth, but also a period when teens may struggle mental health challenges. Dr. Todd Porter, a pediatrician, and Kathy Nelson, a behavioral health therapist, both at Quincy Medical Group, help parents and teens navigate this crucial stage. For Mental Health Awareness Month, they share some guidance for families.

Warning Signs to Watch For
As a therapist who works with kids of all ages, Nelson highlights common concerns like anxiety, depression, and relationship issues between teens and parents or peers. She advises parents to be aware of changes in their teen’s behavior and routine.

Look out for:

  • Sudden changes in hygiene, dress, or sleep patterns (increased sleep or fatigue)
  • Isolation or secretive behavior at home or school
  • Increased irritability with others
  • General changes in behavior like dishonesty, breaking curfew, or ignoring previously followed rules

Dr. Porter emphasizes the importance of social connection for teens, and shared, “All adolescents need social connectedness. They need to be interacting (in-person preferably) with peers and parents. If a parent notices their child starting to distance or withdraw themselves from them or their friends then I think this would be a red flag.”

Taking Action: Resources and Support
If you’re worried about your teen’s mental health, Dr. Porter offers these steps:

  • Talk to the teen’s school. See what mental health resources they offer, such as on-site behavioral health therapists.
  • Schedule a mental health screening with the pediatrician. This can help determine if further counseling with our QMG Behavioral Health team or medication is needed.

Teens Taking Charge of Their Wellbeing
Teens can also recognize the need for help. Nelson advises them to look for signs like:

  • Struggling with schoolwork
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Persistent sadness, depression, or anxiety that interferes with daily life
  • Difficulty sleeping or feeling alone

Modern Pressures
Both Dr. Porter and Nelson acknowledge that social media and the constant information overload contribute significantly to the unique stressors teens face today.

“Participation in social media has been linked to depression and eating disorders, especially in girls. Adolescents engaging in social media experience what is called social comparison which can have negative impacts on their self-esteem,” Dr. Porter stated.

Nelson added, “Common stressors are relationships and with phones where texting, snapchat, and the like are at our fingertips, relationships are a struggle. Adolescents and adults are reading into messages things that the sender may not have intended. Adolescents struggle with one-on-one conversations.”

If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, talk to their pediatrician or primary care provider. To learn more about our care team at QMG, visit quincymedgroup.com.