Are Parents In Denial About Teens' Mental Health?

New research finds that while 65 percent of parents believe their kids may be experiencing a mental illness, not all of the teens have been diagnosed or received treatment.

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The stats surrounding mental health speak for themselves: reportedly 1 in 5 young people suffers from a mental illness. Yet despite this high number, there's still a stigma attached to the topic, which can make it tough to talk openly about the subject. According to a new study, many parents believe their kids are experiencing anxiety or depression, yet few are actually taking action to help.

This research comes from a study conducted by Yahoo Parenting and Silver Hill, a non-profit hospital that treats addictive and psychological disorders. They found that out of the more than 3,100 parents surveyed, 65 percent were concerned that their child may be depressed or anxious, but only 18 percent of teens had been diagnosed with a mental illness. That means the numbers just aren't adding up.

Dr. Aaron Krasner, who works at Silver Hill, told Yahoo,

Everybody is in denial about depression and anxiety. So it makes sense to me that until the [situation] is really hitting the fan, parents and kids aren’t interested in talking about these problems. In some ways, parents don’t want to know and would rather do anything than acknowledge that their kid has a problem.

Explaining the disconnect in the numbers, Dr. Krasner said, "There’s a huge discord between parental perception and teen’s self-report."

We understand that starting the conversation may be tough, but if these statistics are any indication, there's no better time to have a conversation. Letting teens know that you're there to listen and help is an important first step. Don't underestimate the power of opening the door to talk about it.

If you're unsure where to start, try sharing this story about Madeline and Eva. These two teens, who were featured in the November/December 2014 issue of Choices, are speaking out about depression and working to end the stigma in the process. As Eva told us,

The stigma surrounding depression makes people feel like they can’t talk about it openly—or at al. And in turn, those people are not getting the help they need.

The great thing is that when teens realize they're not alone, it makes a huge difference. Madeline felt "relieved" to talk about it, saying, "I had never talked to anybody who could relate to what I was experiencing. It made a world of difference to know that I wasn’t alone."

Another way you can help? Join iFred's efforts to plant sunflowers to raise awareness about depression on the Global Day of Hope on Saturday, May 2. If you can't plant, wear yellow instead! By showing support, it sends a message that depression isn't something to be ashamed of or hide from.