How to recognise mental health red flags in teenagers and what to do

The teenage years are interesting for parents and caregivers. This is one of the biggest moments so far in a child’s development. Although there is a certain amount of expected withdrawal, some things are warning signs that something more dangerous is happening with your teen’s mental health. This guide explores how to recognise mental health red flags in teenagers and what to do.

teenagers chatting posing for mums magazine

General Warning Signs

This post is split into two categories: General warning signs and when to be extra vigilant.

Discombobulated Sleep Patterns

Teenagers go through a major leap when it comes to sleep, and often this will mean they stay up later and struggle to get up in the morning. However, if they are choosing sleeping over usual activities, it is a cause for concern. Retiring to bed instead of, for example, sitting with the family and engaging with friends, is a sign that depression might be present.

Sudden Dislike of School

Again, not liking school feels like a trademark of the teenager. However, if there is a dip in interest, coping or engagement, there is usually a reason behind it. Any change in behavioural patterns is worth exploring, and school can be a major trigger in the life of a teen for many reasons. It can cause anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and anger.

Getting in ‘Trouble’ More

If they have started acting out where they didn’t before, explore this with caution. All the activities that might get them into trouble like teen drinking, ignoring schoolwork, and being defiant are typical to a certain extent. Where the is a more extreme subscription, this is a definite red flag for parents and caregivers.

Weight Loss/Food Aversion

Though harder to monitor, eating disorders are quite common in teenage years. If you notice any dramatic change in physical appearance, i.e., a sudden drop in weight, or that your teenager is avoiding meal times, this is not something that can be ignored.

When to Be Extra Vigilant

Foster Placements

Some situations call for heightened awareness and response, one of which is a teenager in a foster placement. There is every chance that this young person has had an adverse upbringing with a range of challenges that differ from their peers. As a carer, your responsibility lies in subtle monitoring of any and all mental health issues that need flagging to avoid a downhill spiral. You can find lots of valuable guidance through agency websites like the Fosterplus foster care agency.

Rapid Withdrawal from Everything

When teenagers withdraw from everything, this is an indication that they are working through something major or that their mental health is diving. Reach out and find help wherever you can to avoid the issue progressing further. Take extra care to look for signs of self-harming.


Acting out is one thing, but aggressiveness causes as many problems as it encompasses. Physical and verbal abuse, while upsetting, can be common and need a solution.

Tips for Caregivers and Parents

There are a few tips you should keep in mind as a parent or caregiver:

  • Use open communication practices
  • Explore and advocate for treatment
  • Stay alert, but don’t be overbearing

Anyone looking after a teenager has to appreciate their fragility and focus on building resilience, nurturing and remaining an open source of support.


Related articles 

Is your teenage / University child having problems with Time-Management?

London with Teens: London Eye 


Educating teenagers to develop emotional intelligence

How to ‘tame’ Teenagers on holiday

Facebook Comments