Mental health

Parents often face the challenge of knowing what is typical teenage behaviour and what are potential signs of a more serious issue in their teens.

Behaviours like ever changing and extreme moods are often part of standard teenage behaviour. That said, it's still valuable to recognise when there might be signs of a more significant problem.

If you're concerned about your teenager's behaviour or overall well-being, here are some steps to consider:

  • Chat to them: open a conversation with your teenager about your concerns. Discussing worries with them will help them to make sense of issue and ways that can be tackled.
  • Seek professional advice: consulting a GP or medical professional can provide valuable guidance and assessment when you're worried about your teenager's behaviour or health.

It's crucial to understand that many parents and caregivers may find it confusing, frustrating and challenging to deal with teenage behaviour.

Depression and teenagers

Whilst some mood swings are normal during the hormonal changes that happen in puberty, there might be signs that point to a more serious issue. Your teenager may be experiencing depression if they display any of the following:

  • Long term feelings of sadness, low mood and/or crying.
  • Feelings of despair, helplessness or hopelessness.
  • Irritability, anger and/or impatience with others.
  • Lack of interest in or enjoyment of activities they used to like.
  • Avoiding social situations and activities.
  • Changes in sleep, for example not sleeping or sleeping more than usual, or experiencing nightmares.

Eating disorders

When children become older they become more concerned about their personal appearance, it is normal for teenagers to take longer getting ready or not liking certain aspects of their appearance but if a teenager is losing weight at an alarming rate or becomes underweight there could be an underlying issue.

Common eating disorders among teenagers include: Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge eating disorder.

Indicators of eating disorders may include:

  • Expressing concern with their body weight, even if they are a healthy weight or underweight.
  • Leading others to believe they have eaten when they have not.
  • Showing secrecy around their eating habits.
  • Experiencing anxiety, distress or guilt about eating.
  • Vomiting or using laxatives to achieve weight loss.


Self-harm can be a symptom of poor mental health and is used as a coping mechanism. If you suspect that your teenager is self-harming, look out for these possible signs:

  • Unexplained cuts, bruises or burns on areas such as wrists, arms, thighs and chest.
  • Signs that they have been pulling their hair.
  • Wearing clothes that cover the entire body, even in hot weather.
  • Signs of depression or low mood.
  • Signs of low self-esteem or feeling that they are not 'good enough'.

Drugs and substances

Signs that your teenager could be using drugs may include:

  • A loss of interest in hobbies and pastimes that they used to enjoy.
  • Dramatic changes in behaviour, including irritability, moodiness and secretive behaviour.
  • Tiredness and loss of appetite.
  • Skin problems, dilated pupils or bloodshot eyes.
  • Missing money and other items - it is possible that your teenager is stealing from you to buy drugs.

What can I do to help?

If you are concerned about your teenager and they do not wish to talk, you may have to consider other methods. Asking them about issues repeatedly may make them feel threatened and angry.

Tips for dealing with tricky conversations.

  • Be honest with them, tell them what you are concerned about and why.
  • Let them know that you are available anytime that they want a chat.
  • Tell them about different services that they could use for help.
  • Ask them if they would like to talk to a GP or a school counsellor and tell them about how to do this.
  • Encourage them to analyse the situation rationally and to consider what they would advise a friend to do.

Looking after your own mental health

Parenting or caring for a child or young person can be challenging. It's crucial to take care of your own mental well-being, as it enables you to support yourself while you care for others.

Here are some essential points to remember:

  • Self-awareness: be aware of and accept your own feelings of sadness, stress, or being overwhelmed. It's okay to struggle or face your own mental health challenges.
  • No guilt: having difficulties or experience of mental health issues does not make you a bad parent or caregiver. It's a normal part of life.
  • Emotions are normal: feeling worried, scared or helpless during tough times is entirely normal, and there's no shame in experiencing these emotions.
  • Seek support: if possible, confide in someone you trust about your feelings. Whether it's family, friends, or a colleague, reaching out for support or taking a break is essential.
  • You're not alone: never feel like you have to manage everything on your own. There is help available, and various organizations, such as Scope and Young Minds, offer advice and support for parents and caregivers.

Remember, taking care of yourself is a vital part of being able to care for others effectively. It's a sign of strength to seek help and prioritize your own well-being.

Support for parents and carers

Support for mental health emergencies:

CAHMS (child and adolescent mental health services) Tel: 0800 032 8728 option 1.


Windmills charity Stoke-on-Trent - acute bereavement support for children and young people in Staffordshire


Depression in children and young people - NHS

Drug use

Drug addiction: getting help - NHS

Eating disorders

Eating disorders: advice for parents - NHS

Starting a conversation

Talking to your teenager - NHS