Navigating Mental Health with your Teen [Mental Health Awareness Series#4]

I have teenagers. I get it. No one tells them, anything, ever, because they know it, all. Cue eye roll, sigh, sad shake of the head; isn’t mom dumb? But the funny thing is that we are still their case managers, their guides, the prime decision maker when it comes to their health, and mental health is no exception, just infinitely more challenging.

There is also the complex emotional aspect that comes into play; guilt (“did I parent wrong?”), embarrassment (“what will my family/friends/neighbors say if they knew my child was seeing a psychiatrist?!”), blame (“if my spouse hadn’t said/did/left/divorced/died, we wouldn’t be in this mess”).

All of these factors interact to create that frenzied bubbling stew, when, parallel to that storm, we need to be 1) getting a diagnosis, 2) finding a doctor, 3) finding a therapist and finding a suitable environment for our child to be in. Wow, I need a nap just by writing all that down.

Let’s take a step back and start from the beginning.

Identifying the problem: How do we know our child needs mental health assistance?

  • The school counselor calls you and says your child needs a diagnosis, s/he is being disruptive in school, not participating, exhibiting signs of depression…
  • Your child’s teacher contacts you and suggests that the child need mental health intervention
  • A concerned (slightly intrusive?) parent of your child’s friend contacts you saying that your child was exhibiting strange behavior/saying odd or self-harming phrases
  • Your child attempts suicide
  • Your child states to you they are contemplating suicide
  • Physical outbursts when your child acts out of control and you feel powerless
  • Your child is exhibiting signs of extreme anxiety, fear, or ritualizing when they were not.

Obviously, there are many possibilities here, but these are some of the most common ways an issue comes to light, and each one has its own methods toward resolution.

Educational Problems

When a school professional contacts you, you first need to ascertain the following information: Is the problem academic, attention oriented, violent, or self-harming?

If your child is not attending classes or failing out of a subject, the background could be a learning issue that hasn’t yet been addressed. In addition, to your other therapeutic journey, you should include a psycho-didactic evaluation.  As we’ve mentioned before, the kupot now offer these evaluations for under 1,000 NIS with specified institutions, so it behooves you to contact your kupah and ask them about this option.

Odd Social Behaviors

When someone inside your social circle contacts you, you need to ask yourself, is this person reliable? Was my child’s behavior singular or repeated? You also need to have a conversation with your teen, explaining that someone else had voiced concerns. [This isn’t the forum to discuss parent/child communication, but instead of freaking out or yelling, which you can definitely do in your head, by the way, this is an excellent moment to bridge communication with your child,  and reaching out is really your only option.]

If the problem seems to be depression, anxiety, sexual orientation questions, this is the time to seek out a professional therapist (either subsidized through the kupah – see my facebook live videos for that info) or completely privately. This will be a time you will have to make half a dozen phone calls to speak with a provider who is 1) available and 2) suitable to your situation. It could be that after the therapist meets with your child, you will have to try again because their chemistry won’t fit. At the same time, you are looking for a therapist, make an appointment (through the kupah) for a psychiatrist. Since it’s not urgent, you have time, but it could be that medication will be suggested and you will want to have an appointment on hand for that possibility.

Contemplating or Attempted Suicide

In these cases, the recommendation is to go right to Emergency Room, (contact your kupah moked (directory) on the way to get a referral because you may not be admitted). In the ER, they will send a psychiatrist to evaluate your child (remember, this could take a day), and determine whether they think s/he needs to be hospitalized.

The following mental health hospitals report Emergency Units for children (12-18) suffering from urgent mental health crises:

Name City Geographic Area
Maale Ha’Carmel Tirat Hacarmel North
Nes Tziyona Nes Tziyona center of the country
Abarbanel Tel Aviv center of the country
Hadassah Ein Karem Jerusalem Jerusalem
Geha Petach Tikva center of the country
Merkaz Refui L’Galil Nehariya North
Ziv Tsphat North
Schneider Petach Tikva Center of the country


2 thoughts on “Navigating Mental Health with your Teen [Mental Health Awareness Series#4]”

  1. As someone with a teenage son, your article totally resonates with my office mate. He’s been acting quite peculiarly ever since he got back from his summer camp and that really worries her. Luckily, you did point out that reaching out to a therapist is always a smart strategy to address those kind of issues. I’ll remind her to book a session with a specialist quickly so he can get back to normal.

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