With teenagers at home for an indefinite time, and especially over the Easter break, those with pre-existing mental health issues are at a greater risk of falling into depression. Kiama based Clinical Psychologist Caroline Jones has some strategies that parents can use, as well as warning signs to look out for when it comes to mental health.
Healthy eating, good personal hygiene, daily exercise, adequate sleep and limiting screen time to around two to three hours a day are essential practices in maintain- ing good physical and mental health. This can be achieved by implementing routine. “They think they don’t need routine, but they really do,” says Caroline, who cannot stress the importance of routine and family time enough. “It is important to acknowledge that it’s completely normal to feel anxious about spending time together as a family over the Easter break.”
Making sure families eat at least one meal together ensures parents can touch base with their teens and get an insight into how they are coping with the changes and restrictions that have been put into place. Some signs to watch out for are lethargy, withdrawal, low motivation, racing thoughts and disengagement, teens should also not be in their rooms too much. By encouraging projects, involvement in chores and maintaining a structured day, parents can keep a close eye on boredom levels and possible destructive use of social media.
Caroline recommends the Smiling Minds app, Kids Helpline and Headspace as excellent resources for young people to utilise in order to improve on, acknowledge and talk about their mental health in a safe and supportive environment. “The problem with pre-existing mental health stuff like depression, is that it finds gaps to feed off, which is why structure, communication and self-care are so important in promoting good mental health, now more than ever.”