Teenagers can experience crises. Adolescence is a traumatic time. Parents may feel confused and frustrated in their interactions with the teenager. The parents may disagree and argue about what should be done, thus losing them credibility.  However, sometimes parents may feel the need to seek help from mental health professionals.  Schools may try to help, but may blame the student, who will eventually drop out if they feel school is boring, unsupervised or humiliating for them.  Some children may only go to school to be with friends who have access to drugs, cars, cigarettes and so on.  

The possibility of drug or alcohol use may be overlooked by doctors, counsellors or parents, as they are afraid or reluctant to give their child a drugs screen. They may take the child’s word that they are not using alcohol or drugs. Also, a teenager may admit to drinking, but not to taking drugs.  Drugs and a negative peer or social group can seriously affect a teenager’s life and put them on a negative pathway. 

Many health care and education models today do not adequately address the unique needs of teenagers in crisis.  A diagnosis is often made based on a few interviews and an impression. Thorough evaluations are often not completed. Family, teachers, friends and siblings are often not interviewed in an open and cooperative manner. The underlying cause for the crisis may not be understood or addressed, because the real issue often requires more effort than providing “symptom relief.”

It can take a great deal of time for a mental health professional to earn a teenager’s trust. After a few sessions, many teenagers do not want to go back to the therapy as they feel it isn’t helping. Or they may simply refuse to stop doing what they are currently doing. Sometimes the symptoms the teenager is showing may go away when they first start to see a counsellor, but eventually they may resurface, such as failing school, missing classes, staying out late, sleeping all day, running off, being expelled, coming into contact with law enforcement and so on. 

Teenagers learn how to hide their behaviour and symptoms to manipulate doctors, counsellors, teachers and their parents. They may often seek advice and support from other teenagers who feel the same way they do. However, teenagers may lack the experience and support to support another adequately and may simply give ways on how to avoid the consequences of their actions and manipulate others. 

A teenager may not understand that antidepressants may help, even if they have unpleasant side effects, or why they should avoid doing things that make them feel good. This is a real dilemma for parents and counsellors alike.  It is a real challenge to help a teenager in crisis to see this.  They may often focus on feeling better immediately and not be concerned about the long-term impact on how they will feel. 

For example, illegal drugs may instantly make them feel better, but psychiatric medications may not.  Although of course, prescription drugs are not necessarily the best option for a child or teenager in distress.

Teenagers may be sorry when they get in trouble, but they may feel they are invincible, so defy law enforcement and their parents.  They may not learn from their mistakes but try to learn ways to avoid and escape the consequences of their actions.  Teenagers will often act like victims and become victims, or they become abusive and victimise others. This can cause problems for the teenager, ending up abused, assaulted, threatened or worse. 

Even more difficult, is that a teenager may suffer from an undiagnosed physical, mental or neurological disorder.  For example, children with diabetes and hypothyroid may be placed on antidepressants.  Some children with a mental disorder may be placed on the wrong medication and suffer toxic side effects that require other medication to treat.

Fear and depression are natural symptoms in some situations, for example, when a teenager breaks up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, if they are expelled from school, or get into trouble with the law etc.  By failing to gain a clear understanding of a teenager with problems, these problems can escalate and lead to more serious long-term harm. If the mental health professional is able to diagnose any condition properly, effective solutions can hopefully be put in place in time.