Having a Dialogue About Mental Health and Substance Abuse

By Claire Rosenecker, Horizon Corporate Communications

Transitioning into the teenage years can present challenges for children and their families. The physical and emotional changes these children face, the increasing influences of social media, and for many, the unknowns of returning to school in the fall after the pandemic can take a toll on the mental and emotional health of teens.

Parents and guardians play a critical role in helping their teens navigate these challenging years. Having an open dialogue about mental health and substance use is one of the most impactful ways to help teens realize that, “It’s OK not to be OK.” Providing teens with a safe space where they feel comfortable talking about the challenges they are facing, especially as they return to school, allows parents and guardians to be more aware of potential mental health issues or exposure to drugs their children may encounter.
While it may be difficult to have these conversations, fostering a candid and open dialogue with teens about mental health and substance use is of great importance, especially in their developmental years. As a parent or guardian, there are many ways to create an environment so that your teen feels open to talking about mental health struggles and drug use. Some easy ways to cultivate the conversation include being open and empathetic about how your teen is feeling, regularly “checking in” to ask about school and friends, and educating yourself on the possible warning signs of mental illnesses or substance use.

Horizon’s Adolescent and Family Services team consists of a dedicated group of counselors, nurses, and support staff who help teens struggling with a mental health or substance use disorder. Horizon strongly believes family involvement throughout a loved one’s journey makes a significant difference to their success. Whether it’s joining counseling sessions, meeting with your teen’s counselor, having a family session, or learning how to be supportive in a positive and healthy way, Horizon can help you cultivate the conversation.

Horizon provides parents and guardians with many educational resources on the topics of mental health and substance use. The Virtual Speakers Bureau offers community-wide training on various topics, including understanding depression and anxiety, anger management, suicide prevention, understanding substance abuse, and family education and involvement. Learn more about the Speakers Bureau online at www.horizon-health.org.

If you’re looking to become part of a dedicated group working together to better understand mental health and substance use, consider joining our Parent & Family Support Group. Colleen Babcock, Horizon’s Parent & Family Support Group Coordinator, will be hosting a virtual presentation on August 18th. For any additional questions about the program, please email her at CBabcock@horizon-health.org or call her at 716-907-2985.

Making the decision to reach out for help can be difficult, especially for a teenager. Our experienced team is here to help bridge that gap, provide a warm and supportive first encounter, and develop a personalized treatment experience for you and your family. Call 716-831-1800 today, or visit www.horizon-health.org.