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They won't get help: supporting your teenager through a mental health crisis

Community Member

Like many adults, adolescents have their fair share of resistance in accepting that they may have a "mental illness ". I think it's especially difficult for adolescents because it's a time when they so desperately want to fit in and just be normal. So anything that identifies them as "abnormal" will be difficult to accommodate.

That doesn't mean we don't try and get them help .. so how do we get them there?

Firstly, I would suggest to try to find something that is bothering them ( as opposed to something that is bothering the parent) . For example, the child might be not attending school and the parents are beside themselves about it - but the main issue for the adolescent is that they find it hard to get to sleep at night.

So suggesting a visit to the GP to work out a way to sleep better at night may be more fruitful ( even if it's not the main issue in the parents eyes).

Secondly, I would use language that isn't going to stress the young person out and induce resistance. Terms like "mental illness" or even "depression" can send them running. But words like "not feeling yourself" or "feeling stressed" or "feeling down " may be less confronting, initially anyway .

Thirdly, be super reassuring. Keep telling the young person that you are there for them , that you are confident that they will get through this, that things will be ok , that you are there to help them. Part of them will groan but part will be really relieved .

And lastly .. LISTEN . There is a time to not speak and not do advice but just listen . To really just try and understand what the young person is going through . If they think that you have put the time and tolerance in to listening to them without judging or telling what to do but simply asking more questions, they are MORE likely to then take advice from you at a later point ( like your advice about going to the GP for example) .

I also think that it is imperative to book a double appointment with the GP so the young person isn't rushed and it's ok to also give the GP a call beforehand and give them a heads up that your loved one is coming in and you have these concerns ... that gives the GP the best opportunity to engage the person.

I hope these few tips might help in this tough situation.

What tips do you have to share?

[Mod note: see also beyondblue's Have The Conversation resource. This thread is for sharing tips on what has worked for you in supporting a teenager through a mental health crisis. In order to help us keep this thread focused on solutions, please start a new thread if you would like support from the community about how to support your teenager.]

3 Replies 3

Community Member

Hi, I'm new here - this is my first post.

I'm not sure if this is ok but hope I will be allowed to share the name of a book which is helping me to better communicate with a loved one who I'm worried about. Like Dr. Kim's advise does a good job explaining feelings and reactions etc. It's like a helping hand by your side.

Author: Xavier Amador

Title: I Am Not Sick I Don't Need Help ! How to help someone with mental illness accept treatment

I got my copy from the local library and I'm not a book seller.

Community Member


I have tried a lot of things to try and get through to my teenage daughter. I hope to find some new ideas. I am a single mum. My daughter is now 18. I have almost 18months ago ended a relationship with a man whose manner eventually bordered on verbally abusive. He lived at my family home almost the entire time. That relationship was 4 and 1/2 years. The reason I mention it was because I wonder if this has contributed to her lack of mental well being. Her father hardly sees her.

She just barely passed Year 11 and things had started to unravel then. I sought out a tutor. She didn’t think the tutor explained things, just told her things. I took her to a psychologist but she didn’t like her. I spoke to her teachers. They said she was quite able to keep up in class. She seemed to be having friends. She didn’t go to lots of parties, she did drink. She didn’t take drugs(that I know of). She didn’t sleep around. She hasn’t had a boyfriend. Year 12 was when she failed altogether. She didn’t complete any study at home, only at school.
She decided to take a ‘gap’ year and since she left school has done nothing. No job, no study and stays at home largely. She doesn’t drive even though I bought a second hand car for her. She doesn’t take care of her washing of clothes, she doesn’t cook for herself at all, she had a job but didn’t provide her TFN because she couldn’t be bothered. She won’t apply for Centrelink because ‘then I will get a job and have to work’’ She and I have very little communication. She clearly doesn’t want to talk to me. Her attitude and manner are very hostile., contemptuous. It is just she and I. I try very hard to include her but she refuses. It is just her and I at home. I have a new boyfriend but he doesn’t live with us. I would like him to but I don’t want to upset my daughter, if this was part of the original catalyst of change.

I am reaching out because I recently gave her an ultimatum; do something with your life, a job, see a psychologist, do some study, learn to drive or I will take away her access to the Internet but it seems I have driven her drink, by herself when I am with my boyfriend.

I am literally on eggshells because I don’t know what else I can do. HELP!

Hi Micklemack, 

This sounds incredibly difficult, and it sounds like you're doing your best to understand and support your daughter. We understand how difficult it can be watching your loved ones struggle, especially when you have seen a professional and are still not seeing much change. We hope you find something in the advice from Dr Kim. Hopefully there'll be some comfort, understanding and advice from other forum users, many of whom have shared similar experiences.  

It must be really hard feeling like communication is not good between the two of you. Is there anyone in her life that you think could try talking to her? We'd encourage you and her to reach out to the Beyond Blue Support Service. We are available 24/7 by phone on 1300 22 4636, or you can use our webchat or email. One of our friendly counsellors will be able to talk through these feelings with you and can offer support, advice and referrals. 

Alternatively, you could get in touch with Kids Helpline. They are a confidential and anonymous, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged 25 and under. You can also contact Lifeline (13 11 14) or the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467) for tips and strategies.   

Just a note on the location of this post – this thread is a few years old, and Dr Kim is no longer likely to reply as she's left the community. We have it pinned as the advice is really constructive, but if you don't see many responses from other users, do feel free to start your own thread on this topic.  

We're really glad you've had the strength and courage to come this community for support. You are not alone and we are here to assist you. Please keep coming back to the forum and touch base with us, whenever you feel comfortable to do so. 

Kind regards,  

Sophie M