Boot camp for troubled teens are a popular option for some parents. It’s easy to look at the younger generation and be in awe of their quality of life. In the news, we see adolescents stepping up and leading revolutions. They’ve got the latest technologies and opportunities that their predecessors could have only dreamed of having before. Alcohol and drug use are at an all time low. Yet, the evidence doesn’t lie: teenagers are as unhappy as ever.

With depression rates soaring ever higher, the state of mental health for adolescents has become a nationwide cause for concern. NBC News reports that although major depression is on the rise across all age groups, teens in particular have seen the highest increase since 2013 at 63%. In 2016, 2.6% of all youths aged 12 to 17 were diagnosed with major depression. Meanwhile, 18-34 year olds experienced a jump in diagnoses from 3% to 4.4% of their population, marking a 47% increase in the same timeframe. Even pediatric hospitals have revealed that suicide-related admissions of patients below 17 years old have doubled.

There are many possible reasons behind this social epidemic, like inaccessible mental health care, inadequate family support, and stigmas that force people into silence. One of the biggest culprits is a lack of awareness, which can be attributed to the scarcity of highly knowledgeable professionals, particularly in psychology and education. With the spike in these worrying statistics, it has also brought about an increase in demand for professionals in this field. Teens spend most of their time growing up in school, so teachers play an important role in influencing and helping them understand mental health. Maryville University highlights the importance of having a deep and contemporary perspective in psychology that is in line with the times. This is because recent studies have shown an intricate connection between mental health and learning. Therefore, professionals who aren’t sufficiently equipped with the know-how to handle these issues may end up doing more harm than good.

Changing the entire landscape of the world they were raised in may be a grand challenge, but for parents and teachers, there are steps you can take that may keep your child from becoming just another unfortunate statistic. Ultimately, treatments depend on the severity of their condition — friendly advice and a fun weekend, for example, may do the trick for some kids having a bad day, but others may require something more intense, like a psychiatric boot camp. Early detection makes a world of difference, so it’s crucial to know what you’re looking at first.

So what are some possible signs of mental illness in adolescents?

Anxiousness: As emphasized by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, emotional sensitivity makes mid-adolescent teens more vulnerable to symptoms associated with anxiety. These include a difficulty in concentrating, irritability, sleep disorders, and restlessness. Notice when their tiredness is out of character and not caused by stress at school.

Loss of interest and enthusiasm: Your child’s adolescent years should be full of color and vigor, not spent holed up in a room. While there should be no pressure to force them into hobbies — extreme apathy and indifference, especially towards things that he or she used to be passionate about — can be a red flag. If prolonged, Science Direct cautions that it could qualify as a Major Depressive Episode.

Low self-esteem: Usually stemming from feelings of insecurity, some teens may require more reassurance if they exhibit feelings of worthlessness. Adolescence and puberty is a volatile phase in teens’ lives, so “harmless comments” may affect victims more than they should.

Tendency for isolation and withdrawal: Mental health sufferers know the struggle of not being able to integrate into society. Therefore, they will often choose to be isolated from others. If this seems too out of character for your supposedly extroverted son or daughter, pay even more attention to them.

Underperforming at school: A teen who is depressed will have a hard time pouring their energy into school activities. A mental health disorder makes it hard enough to function properly, so the simple act of showing up for class becomes a challenge.

As mentioned, mental health is never a one-size-fits-all condition, but it’s not a hopeless case for parents. Of course, there are basic remedies such as fostering a judgement-free zone, seeking the help of psychological therapists, and providing support. However, there is more to be done for extreme cases.

It is not advisable to go overboard on the helicopter parenting, but evaluating their environment will help determine what your teen needs. As previously explored here at the Family Center for Recovery, extreme cases might require limiting family access and having to step away from home. When words or simple medication don’t seem to be doing the trick, parents perhaps consider psychiatric boot camps.

What is a psychiatric boot camp?

An option for more extreme cases, psychiatric bootcamps operate similarly to military bootcamps. They come complete with the barrack lifestyle, rigorous physical activity, and intense discipline. It is often a parents’ program of choice when no other treatments have been effective. Bootcamps have proven especially helpful for exasperating cases, such as addicts. However, there is still a lot of controversy surrounding these bootcamps and whether or not they are appropriate for unstable adolescents. Below, we look at the pros and cons to understand if this is the right path for your teen.

Pros: Because teen bootcamps were originally designed to rehabilitate rebellious juveniles who got in trouble with the law, the biggest advantage is that they teach self-control and respect for authority. Beyond that, they also teach them how to handle potentially difficult situations, without the risk of them actually going through it in real life. Additionally, most facilities are designed to make patients feel comfortable while also encouraging responsibilities.

Cons: For teens struggling with in unexplainable and intense emotions, a bootcamps lack of therapeutic programs can be a huge disadvantage. Generally, they are not designed to tackle underlying emotional or behavioral problems most troubled teens are struggling with. So victims struggling to cope with depression, self-harm, low self-esteem, and anxiety may get worse when put under this type of stress. Not everyone is built for the Marines, not all teens are capable of withstanding bootcamps, so make sure to consult your doctor before proceeding.


Exclusively written for Family Center For Recovery


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