Youth 16 to 17 Years
An older teenager may seem to be more like a young adult – at least that’s what we often expect to be reflected from their behaviour and choices, but the truth is that while older teenagers may be facing some very adult problems, they may still require support in processing and responding to these challenges. By this age, many 16- to 17-year-olds have had their first romantic relationship and they may be sexually active – which is a whole new area of life to navigate. With these relationships often comes relationship issues – controlling partners, jealousy, infidelity, breakups, etc. Older teenagers are still managing social relationships and potential issues with their peers. They are facing pressure to obtain or maintain school marks that will qualify for them for scholarships and post-secondary school admission. They’re at a time in their life when they have to choose their career, which will impact the rest of their lives, and in some cases, they may even have to do so with their parent’s or family’s approval. Most older teenagers are involved in extracurricular activities and/or hold down a part time job. They may be also be dealing with a learning or developmental disorder, experiencing a mental health disorder, or events and circumstances outside of school such as trauma, abuse, anxiety, grief, and depression.
Being an older teenager can be a very exciting time but also a very stressful time.
Reasons older teens may face mental health issues
- Relationship issues with their romantic interest
- Learning about their sexuality
- Struggling with learning in school
- Struggling socially with friends
- Self esteem issues – gaining weight, not gaining enough weight, not developing typically
- High anxiety about performance in school, teams, or other pursuits
- Pressure to choose a career – from parents, family members, or themselves
- Stress from jugging school, sports, other pursuits, work, etc.
- Death of a parent, sibling, grandparent, or other close family member
- Divorce or separation
- Death or loss of a pet
- Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
- Extreme poverty and/or food insecurity
- Developmental disorders (ADD/ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, etc.)
- Mental health disorders (anxiety disorders, major depressive disorder, etc.)
Older teens in this age group can experience these events and situations but may have difficulty fully understanding and processing them or expressing themselves and their emotions in a healthy way.
Child and youth therapists are specially trained to work with older teenagers. They communicate and relate to the youth on the youth’s level and help them to express themselves in ways that are appropriate for older teenagers.
Symptoms & signs of mental health issues in older teens
- Mood changes
- Trouble performing in school or extracurricular activities
- Behaviour changes
- Damaging behaviour (to self, others, or property)
- Disruptive behaviour in school
- Acting withdrawn and uninterested in the world around them
- Regressing to a younger state
- Overwhelming fears of things that are normally not seen as scary
- Persistent sadness
- Common emotional symptoms of anxiety or depression
- Risky or self-destructive behaviours (alcohol or substance use, out of control shopping, etc.)
- Talking about suicide
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of appetite or overeating
- Inability to concentrate
- Frequent stomach aches
- Changes in sleeping habits
When is it time to get help?
Like most mental or physical health issues, it’s always better to seek help sooner rather than later. This is especially true in youth who are exhibiting signs of mental health issues. It’s important for parents to learn how to deal with their children’s issues and how to best support their child. It may be time to seek help if you’re finding that your child’s behaviour or moods seems different, such as:
- More frequent or severe emotional outbursts
- Being significantly withdrawn
- Suspicion of alcohol or drug use
- Being ostracized by their friends
- You’re concerned they are in an abusive or unhealthy romantic relationship
- Their behaviour is causing turmoil in the family
- Their teachers are expressing concerns about their behaviour in school
If your child is experiencing the symptoms listed above, it’s likely time to seek help – especially if they’ve recently suffered a traumatic event.
Treatment methods for mental health issues in older teens
There are various treatment methods that are effective for older teenagers, depending on what they are experiencing or what situation they are facing. Your therapist will determine the best treatment for your child’s individual circumstances. They include:
- Acceptance and commitment therapy encourages clients to accept the difficulties and misfortunes of life. Clients learn coping techniques to not dwell on negative emotions by staying in the present.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach to treatment that focuses on how people’s thoughts, emotions, and beliefs influence their behaviour and how they perceive themselves.
- Psychotherapy is a broad term that encompasses numerous styles of therapy and uses verbal or nonverbal communication with a client to help treat psychiatric problems, behavioral issues, personality disorders, and various other types of emotional distress. This form of personal counselling is based on an interpersonal relationship, as opposed to the alternative chemical or physical forms of therapy.
- Person Centered Therapy differs from more traditional therapeutic approaches in the belief that, while the therapist has expertise in many areas, the client is the expert on themselves and their lived experiences. People are essentially trustworthy and have a vast potential for understanding themselves while also being able to ultimately resolve their own problems when guided properly.
- Mindfulness therapy is an approach to treatment that focuses on how people’s thoughts, emotions, and beliefs influence their behaviour and how they perceive themselves, others, and the world. The ability to be in the moment, to acknowledge and regulate your emotions helps you to break free from negative thought patterns.
Treating children this age may involves parents. Effective treatment methods include:
- Family systems therapy looks at the family as one emotional unit. This therapeutic approach looks at the relationships within the family and the structure as a whole.
- Structural family therapy involves looking at the structures within the family unit. Changing the underlying structure tends to cause a ripple effect on the family. This therapy analyzes the hierarchical structure, subsystems, and boundaries within the family.
Your therapist may also recommend couples counselling if there is stress in your relationships that is affecting your child, or your child’s mental health issue is causing your relationship stress.
What will we get out of treatment with Insight Psychological?
Insight can assist you and your older teenager as you both navigate through mental health issues. We can work to get to the root of the problem that your child is facing and provide you with parenting tools that will support your child to express and process their feelings in a healthy way. We can offer assessments to help with diagnoses for developmental or mental health disorders and then support you in managing those disorders.
Please contact us to learn more about our services for children and youth.