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Kaipātiki Parent Pack

When things go wrong

Young people are moving through a period of increasing pressure and stress with studies, work, employment, family, friends and the expectations on them. There can be huge physical and emotional changes occurring, combined with an age of experimentation and peer pressure and sometimes a young person may experience a mental health problem.

Mental health problems usually build up over time and/or are triggered by certain factors and stressors. In some cases they can build up over a period of months or even years. Slow changes can be hard to notice and it may seem like normal adolescent behaviour or growing up. It is important that if you have any concerns about a young persons mental health that you seek help early.

Mental health problems particularly depression and anxiety are common.

Signs of depression include:

  • feeling sad, grumpy or miserable most of the time
  • not being able to have fun
  • feeling restless or lacking in energy
  • crying, or getting angry or upset for no obvious reason
  • losing interest in things that you used to enjoy
  • cutting off from your friends and family
  • feeling worthless, or guilty about things that weren’t your fault
  • having trouble concentrating, forgetting things
  • losing, or gaining, a lot of weight
  • having sleeping problems – not being able to sleep, or sleeping a lot
  • thinking about death or having suicidal thoughts

If you think a young person may be depressed, look for the signs, and talk with them. They may need your help. For more information about depression refer to www.thelowdown.co.nz/ or call the Depression Helpline on 0800 111 757. This is a toll-free number you can call to talk with a trained counsellor. They can have a chat and help you work out whether a young person needs professional help. They can also give you information about the services that are available where you live.

Anxiety is one of the most common problems to affect a young person’s mental wellbeing. It is when anxiety begins to interfere with day to day life that an ‘anxiety disorder’ may be developing and that treatment may be helpful.

For most people at most ages, anxiety results in physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, feeling short of breath, muscle tension, sweating, shaking, churning stomach. Young people tend to find it more difficult than adults to recognise that these unpleasant physical feelings are due to anxiety. They may instead appear to be just overly tense or uptight, or may experience the physical signs as headaches, tummy aches or other ailments.

Anxiety also tends to trigger changes in our thoughts. An anxious person may have persistent worrying thoughts - most often about the possibility that something bad may happen. The younger the child the more difficult it is for them to explain what their thoughts are (i.e. what they are afraid of).

Certain behaviours are commonly associated with anxiety. A person who experiences anxiety wants the feeling to stop as quickly as possible or to avoid feeling anxious in the first place. Avoidance of situations that trigger anxiety is the most common behaviour that goes with anxiety. A young person may show avoidance, withdrawal or under achievement. Some people may develop unusual behaviours or habits. Sometimes drugs and/or alcohol may be used to numb (avoid) feelings of anxiety. It is common for a person with anxiety to also be depressed. For more information refer to www.werrycentre.org.nz.

Research shows that young people are most likely to turn to close friends or family for support, so you’re probably in a really good position to help. Being there for them could make a big difference. It is important that if you have any concerns about your young persons mental health that you seek help early.


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