Family, Kids & Relationships LGBTQ+

When getting help from an adult is the best support a friend can offer

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Given the rising childhood anxiety and teen depression rates in recent years, it’s unfortunately pretty likely that your child will have a friend who’s dealing with mental health issues at some point.

According to data from the CDC, more than 1 in 5 teens seriously considered suicide in 2021, and more than 4 in 10 felt persistently sad or hopeless. These mental health concerns were found to be more common among teen girls and LGBTQ+ youth. Queer, bisexual, and gay teens were more likely to seriously consider suicide, and Black students were more likely to attempt suicide.

Especially in the adolescent years, kids often go to their friends with problems instead of their parents. And even if they aren’t discussing mental health directly, they just spend so much time together that those friends may simply be more aware of any potential signs of depression or other mental health issues in fellow teens.

Of course your child can learn to be a supportive friend to other kids with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. But that responsibility can also be a lot to put on kids who are witnessing a friend going through a tough time.

Teens also need to know when bringing in an adult is the best form of mental health help for their friends. Here are some key guidelines you can teach them!

How teens can best support other teens’ mental health by getting help from an adult

When it’s time to tell a grownup about a fellow teen’s depression symptoms or other mental health warning signs, kids might still be worried about “tattling” on their friend. Here are some ways teens can get past that feeling of betrayal:

  • Tell the friend that you care about them and think it’s time to bring in an adult for support
  • Discuss together which adult(s) you/they should go to
  • Offer to be there for support when they do talk to someone
  • Even if they don’t agree, remember that you’ll be proud of yourself for doing what’s best for them in the long term

Serious signs of teen depression or other teen mental illness that require help

Teens can also benefit from knowing the signs that it’s definitely time to bring an adult into the conversation. Remind them to get help from an adult if…

  • There’s any talk or signs of harming themselves or anyone else, or wanting to
  • Your friend seems to be seeing/believing things that aren’t real
  • You suspect an eating disorder, substance abuse, or any other serious health threat
  • You’re feeling overwhelmed or burdened by any of it

Add these tips and guidelines to your family’s toolbox of ways to boost teen mental health, including being aware of the symptoms of depression in teens, supporting queer and trans kids, becoming an ally to LGBTQ+ youth, and knowing when and how to allow days off for teens’ mental health.

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.