Diagnosing mental illness hard on both parents and teens


LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – One in five teenagers have or will have a serious mental illness, according to to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

About a quarter of them will develop a mental illness by the time they’re fourteen. However, diagnosing a mental illness can be a confusing time for parents and teens.

“Often there are signs. If you pick up on them, you can catch it early. The earlier you catch things, it’s less of a surprise, the sooner you can get them into treatment,” said Dr. Scott Hamilton, Pediatric Medical Adviser to the Emergency Department at Lafayette General Medical Center. 
According to Hamilton, some of the signs include not sleeping enough, withdrawing from friendships, lower grades and losing weight, which can seem like somewhat normal teenage behavior. 

Hamilton also advises parents to be aware of “stressors” that can bring about mental illness. These stressors can include a divorce, going off to college or a death in the family. 

“I had a kid just a couple of days ago. His mom died a month ago. His symptoms could be medical symptoms or it could be signs that he’s depressed. Fortunately the father was aware of that and he already had counseling plans. I thought great, they’re on the right track,” Dr. Hamilton said. 

According to NAMI, about 8 percent of teens have an anxiety disorder and about 11 perfect have a mood disorder.

This could be depression or bipolar disorder. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens. 

“Sometimes you can’t be afraid to use the word suicide or ask if they want to kill themselves. Saying the word suicide doesn’t mean your kid is going to be suicidal, but you can’t know until you ask,” Dr. Hamilton said. 

Dr. Hamilton said having regular conversations with your teen is key to spotting mental illness. The earlier treatment starts, the better the outcome. Dr. Hamilton said the first step should be checking with a doctor. It also may be helpful for teens to have several emergency numbers saved in their cell phones.

If you or your child are thinking about harming yourself, get help immediately. You can call 911 or theNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

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