Mental health is an important topic for people of all ages, but it can be especially challenging for adults to talk to youth about this subject. It’s critical for adults to create a strong connection with children and adolescents to contribute to their well-being. It’s important to note that any diagnosis or counseling should be conducted by a licensed behavioral health clinician. 

In today’s blog post, we offer expert guidance to help make these conversations more effective.


When to Start Mental Health Discussions

The best time to discuss mental health is, well, all the time. 

When you continue to discuss mental health with youth, you show you care and open the doors of communication. Asking questions about your teen’s state of mind and feelings might lead to rolled eyes or even negative reactions, but it lets them know you are there if you need them. 

By providing them with information and resources early on, you can help them build a strong foundation of knowledge and understanding that will serve them well throughout their lives.


Emotional Response

Explain to kids that it’s important for emotions to match the situation.

If running out of their favorite cereal causes a severe tantrum or verbal attack against you, this is an overreaction. On the other hand, if they find out they didn’t make the team or were rejected by their preferred college, this might provoke tears or anger, which is more understandable. 

Working with young people to understand their emotions and what is acceptable and what is not helps them develop higher emotional intelligence. When you discuss emotions, you help them recognize their feelings and become more self-aware. They can learn to soften the blow when they experience unpleasant situations and reduce stress, resentment, and anxiety that can contribute to poor mental health.   


Encourage Adult Conversation – Even if it isn’t You

Encouraging youth to discuss their mental health issues with you is a good start. 

However, it is not uncommon for teens to feel awkward discussing certain feelings with their parents. Encourage your teen to discuss their mental health with an adult they feel more comfortable with, such as a school counselor, teacher, coach, healthcare provider, or a friend’s parents. 

Don’t feel hurt if this is their preference, and instead, be glad they are seeking help.


Discourage Negative Attitudes About Mental Health

Be aware of negative attitudes a young person might have about mental health. 

It’s important to talk respectfully about a friend or fellow student with mental health issues.

Use this as a teaching moment to educate a young person about mental health and the importance of respecting people experiencing mental health issues.


Be Open to Conversation

Remain supportive and open, by following these youth conversation tips:

  • Never dismiss their concerns as unimportant or part of growing up
  • Focus on listening. While it can be tempting to interrupt or say you’re busy with something else, always focus on listening and giving them your full attention
  • Never judge. Be completely supportive and listen to what they have to say so they know they can come to you about anything.
  • Offer assistance. Ask them what you can do to help and do what you can to make it happen.

Each conversation presents a new situation and opportunity for you to express your desire to help. If you feel ill-equipped to offer advice, set up an appointment with your family doctor or a mental health clinician to ensure your teen receives the help they need.


Samaritan Counseling Center

Our Vision: Samaritan Counseling Center’s vision is to empower communities, families, and individuals in their journey to live the best version of themselves.

Our Mission: Samaritan engages all people as they are – mentally, spiritually, financially – offering evidence-based psychological care for hope, help, and healing.

Our Values: Teamwork, Client Satisfaction, Clinical Excellence, Community Engagement, Inclusiveness, Gratitude

Samaritan is accredited by The Solihten Institute.

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