Expert advice

Paul Morgan: mental health advisor

Paul Morgan is Deputy Director of SANE Australia, the mental health charity. He is a leading expert in promoting understanding of mental illness in the community. ASK ME A QUESTION

My teenager is never happy

Monday, June 30, 2008
To help a doctor do this, they need as much information as possible, and key things they would look for include someone feeling unusually sad or worried for more than a few weeks, losing interest...
Topics:
teen issues

Question:
I would love some advice about my teenager. She is 14 and never seems happy. She has recently started to rebel and won't speak to me about anything. She refuses to do homework and even go to school because she hates it so much. She has very low self-esteem and is always worried about what the kids at school say and think about her. She feels they are always talking about her and making fun of her. I have noticed that she is lying to her friends about what she has been doing on the weekend. She will say she has been out all night doing fun things when she really has been at home. She is never organised and her memory is shocking. I don't seem to be getting any support from her school and they think she is just lazy but there is more to it. When her brother died four years ago she didn't even cry or show emotion. There has to be a way we can help her. The last time I spoke with her doctor about this he sent us to Alfred Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services and we were told we had six weeks that they would work with her and then you're on your own. I was very disappointed and let down as this was only a band-aid solution to our situation. If there is any real support and or advice that you can suggest, I would be very grateful.

Answer:

Being a teenager is full of ups and downs, and this isn't an easy time for parents and the rest of the family either. Sometimes, though, what we see is more than the usual adolescent changes. This is often the time when conditions such as depression or anxiety disorders first become apparent too.

Only a doctor can diagnose these conditions, of course. To help a doctor do this, they need as much information as possible, and key things they would look for include someone feeling unusually sad or worried for more than a few weeks, losing interest in things they usually enjoy, feeling worthless, and worrying excessively for no reason. If it sounds like your daughter has experienced these sorts of changes, then do persevere in encouraging her to see a doctor for a proper assessment. If you are not satisfied with the response of one GP, then do consider seeing another. These conditions are very treatable, so don't lose hope!

For more information, you can visit www.sane.org or call 1800 18 SANE. Ask about the pamphlet, When Sadness Won't Go Away which contains useful information on this topic. See, too, the National Youth Mental Health Initiative website at www.headspace.org.au for details of services in your area which may be helpful.


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