• Managing and Preventing the Number 1 Mental Health Issue in Teens in 2021 | Dr Melanie McNally | Episode 187

  • mental health issue in teens

    The pandemic has affected our society across the globe, from economics, to travel, to social behavior and interaction–we can all see and feel the differences from now to back in 2018. Most notably, we are seeing a rise in mental health issues and their physical and emotional repercussions, especially in our teenagers. Psychologist Dr. Melanie McNally joins Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler to discuss the number one mental health issue in teens during the pandemic. She helps parents figure out how the pandemic is affecting our teens, what the warning signs are, and gives us steps and tools to help them support and manage their mental and emotional health.

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    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    My first thought is, “All right, how can we give them a sense of control?” And that is exactly what we have to do. We have to fond some areas they can have control over. So what are some parts of their life where we can empower teens to have a little bit of control?

    High Points From Our Conversation on the #1 Mental Health Issue in Teenagers in 2021:

    Quote about mental health issue in teens

    The pandemic has had a statistically demonstrable impact on our teens’ mental and emotional health. The CDC compared teen mental health data from 2019 to 2020 and found a 25% increase in suicidal thinking behaviors and a 31% increase in emergency room visits for psychiatric issues such as suicidal thinking/behavior, panic attacks, and anxiety.

    The current number one mental health issue in teens is anxiety. And the pandemic triggers anxiety in many different ways—social anxiety, academic anxiety, career anxiety. It feels like everything spun out of control, starting in 2019, and just kept spinning. That long with mounting anxiety takes a toll.

    Social interaction is very important for teens—for their self-esteem, their mental health and their egos. They’ve been deprived of that for over a year, and now are being thrust right back in with no recent social exposure and experience to fall back on.

    One major trigger for this mental health issue in teens during the pandemic is that feeling of being out of control. They already had limited control over their lives, and then COVID-19 took that control away.

    How can we give some control back to our teens? Start small and get creative. Ask them for help with meal planning and/or cooking for the week. Let them pick the family game night entertainment. Have a family meeting and let them contribute to the general schedule for the next week or month or what have you.

    Mental health issues in teens show up in adults too! Giving people a purpose seriously helps protect and support everyone’s mental health. Having our kids help us with household purposes or chores also helps reduce the load on the parents (and thus helps reduce their stress and anxiety).

    The world is starting to re-open, and with that comes all the expectations, pressures, and anxieties of re-entering a fully interactive social/economic place that we’re not entirely sure how to handle anymore.

    It’s important to see how various family members feel about getting out, socializing, and participating in activities as the world opens up again. People may feel differently and you may need to compromise.

    If people are feeling anxious, don’t push. Overexposing an anxious person can make the anxiety worse. Instead, start small and build up exposure to whatever is causing fear. 

    “There’s some discomfort, but we have to learn that we can manage that discomfort. And so reminding them, What are the things that help you manage your discomfort? When you are feeling anxious? What is going to help you feel a little less anxious in that situation? So they learn that they can tolerate the discomfort.”

    Mental rehearsals of events are a very useful tool in managing this mental health issue in teens. If your teen is worried, before the event, help them run through it in their head. What are you wearing? Where will you be going? Who will you be talking to? What will you say? How will you be interacting with them? Let them practice the interaction while they feel comfortable and safe at home.

    If the parent is the one who is anxious and doesn’t want the family going out or going on vacation and the teen does, that’s going to create some real friction. And that sets us up for some relationship issues. So look at the current CDC guidelines and see what is being recommended right now. Try some safe activities and remind yourself this is science-backed information.

    Start prepping your kids to return to school in the fall, be it middle school, high school or college. Encourage some social interaction with friends. Use that mental rehearsal for different scenarios. Check in with them. How does being with your friends make you feel? Does going back to school make you anxious? Do you have plans to manage that anxiety in class? The library? The hallways? Would you like help making some?

    In addition to mental rehearsals, some other useful anxiety-management tools include breathing exercises, mantras, journaling, and relaxing yoga. You can Google any of these with your teen and try them out to figure out if any work for either of you. And you can try Sandy’s Yoga Nidra guided meditations where all you have to do is lie down and listen.

    Just a reminder that while pandemic-intensified anxiety is the current number one mental health issue in teens, that doesn’t mean it’s the only issue that your teen could be struggling with. Keep an open mind and keep an eye out for other issues such as depression or addiction.

    Remember to take a deep breath and have grace. Know that everybody is trying to make the best decision they can for themselves and their family.

    Social anxiety is there and it’s a real thing. In the midst of the excitement, we can have gratitude for the excitement and the areas that are opening up and remember there’s still anxiety and there’s still sadness. We can have both those things at the same time.


    Yoga Nidra Meditation with Sandy Fowler

    Creating Mental Wellness | Ann Douglas | Episode 53

    Career Anxiety In College And High School Students | Dennis Trittin | Episode 92

    Relieving Coronavirus Anxiety | Sandy Fowler | Episode 120

    How To Build Self-Confidence In Your Teenager | Dr. Melanie McNally | Episode 129

    Supporting Teenagers During Covid | John MacPhee and Janis Whitlock | Episode 145

    Our Guest Melanie McNally:

    Melanie McNally discusses the number 1 mental health issue in teens

    Dr. Melanie McNally helps teens and young adults become the super heroes of their life stories. She provides online support through teletherapy, self-guided programs, and books that teach teens and young adults how to manage stress and anxiety, develop coping tools, and learn how to like themselves, flaws and all. She wrote Counting Dragonflies, a novel for teens and tweens, about a girl who learns how to love herself, despite the difficulties she’s faced. An accompanying workbook walks tweens and teens through the therapeutic tools introduced in the novel. Dr. McNally has worked in the mental health field since 2005 and teaches the skills, strategies, and tools that she herself has used and continues to use to manage anxiety. She lives in the forest of the upper peninsula of Michigan with her husband and three dogs.

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit destinationyou.net 

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