It’s a “chicken or the egg” question—do we drink because we have issues, or do we have issues because we drink? Everyone’s journey is unique, but ultimately the answer to both is: yes.
The fact is, mental illness and substance use are so often present together, and when they are, they must be addressed together.
With adolescents, it can be an especially tricky combination. Substance use can have significant impacts on a developing brain, and even when not using, adolescents already have heightened feelings of invincibility and a disregard of long-term consequences, resulting in risky behavior. They’re also highly susceptible to the negative effects of social media on their self-esteem, less able to distinguish between real life and curated highlights on Instagram, TikTok, and the like.
And while the above may be true for ALL adolescents, there are signs that may clue you in to a mental health or substance use concern: Any sudden, significant changes in behavior, routine, or friends. Slipping grades or attendance at school or extracurricular activities.
Trust your gut if something seems off and address it with an honest conversation and an open door, heart, and mind. Whatever the issue, it never hurts to let them know that you care and you’re there—in fact, it can make all the difference in the world, even when it’s a tough conversation. Give yourself a break, too. The objective is to identify the concern and appropriate help.
You’re also never alone. If needed, reach out to other figures in your adolescent’s life —a favorite aunt or uncle, a teacher, a pastor—whomever that may be. They may be able to provide insight to you, additional support to them, or even the jumpstart needed.
If professional help is needed, the experts at Rosecrance can assess the adolescent’s needs and strengths, allowing for a customized treatment plan tailored to individual’s needs. What should be addressed first? How should we proceed? How do we treat the whole person, not just the symptoms? Evidenced-based group peer therapy can also be incredibly powerful—at their age, hearing from peers eliminates much of the stigma, rather than hearing it from an authority figure.
If someone you know is—or has—an adolescent struggling with mental health or substance use concerns, or both, check out our latest podcast which covers the overlap between mental illness and substance use in adolescents.
Listen to “The Overlap Between Mental Illness and Substance Use” HERE.