Protecting teens’ mental health
To better understand
Having good mental health means experiencing a state of well-being that lets us feel fulfilled, deal with different situations, and get things done in different areas of our lives, such as family, work and school. There’s a lot more to it than not having a mental illness!
Because adolescence is a time of change and experimentation, teens’ mental health can be more fragile. During adolescence, your teen may seem more emotionally unstable. Their emotional rollercoaster can be quite a wild ride!
What things influence and protect our teens’ mental health? The main thing is their individual characteristics, such as their self-esteem. Then, there are the skills they develop over time. This has to do with the way they manage their emotions, their ability to solve their own problems and create and maintain healthy relationships, and their lifestyle habits. Their mental health will also be influenced by the support they get from the people around them (friends, family, school, community) and by the opportunities they have (fun recreational activities, new activities, enriching experiences that help them to grow and learn about themselves).
• According to data from the Québec Health Survey of High School Students, in 2016, 50% of teens reported having good mental health.
• In 2023, a survey conducted by Dr. Mélissa Généreux in several regions of Québec revealed that 22% of high school students at public and private schools (including vocational schools and adult education) perceived their mental health as being fair or poor.
Want to learn more?
Check out our information sheets for more statistics, key facts, and solutions for families, schools, and communities.
To better support
- Reach out to your teen and start a conversation, while respecting their need for privacy and the fact they might not want to tell you everything. For example, knock on their bedroom door before entering and don’t force your teen to talk about things that make them uncomfortable, but let them know you’re open to talking, if they want to. In short, take an interest in their life.
- Be strategic by using indirect communication when dealing with more sensitive topics. For example, talk to your teen about a TV character who’s going through something similar or set aside time in the car where it’s just the two of you (to avoid direct eye contact). Teens can feel awkward and intimidated during these
- Listen to what your teen is going through, ask questions, and normalize their emotions and doubts. Your teen will have a lot of big feelings and questions about different topics such as puberty, sexuality, their identity, friendships and romantic relationships.
- Give your teen information about what they’re going through and the different changes they can expect during adolescence. You can talk to them directly or give them a book or a website for teens (see some resources below). You can also tell stories about your own teenage years.
- Provide healthy foods, try to set rules surrounding bedtime, and encourage your teen to exercise. Why not suggest physical activities you can do together? Healthy lifestyle habits are important to your teen’s health, and that includes their mental health.
- Take time to get to know their friends and take an interest in them. Friendships are important to your teen, and their friends will have an influence on them.
- Encourage your teen to voice their opinion, keep the discussion going, and respect their point of view, even if it’s different from yours. Try to pique their curiosity by talking about different topics such as current issues and events.
- Introduce your teen to places and activities where they can make connections and explore new interests.
- Let your teen know it’s okay to ask for help if they’re having a hard time or worried about something and offer them your support.
- Pay attention to your own lifestyle habits, including your sleep and diet, your exercise routine, and your activities with friends. Also observe how you handle your emotions and solve your problems, because you’re a role model for your teen. Since your teen will learn and grow from the example you set, try to act how you would like them to act.
Positive mental health needs to be protected and nurtured. Help your teen take care of their mental health by focusing on their strengths and those in their environment. Help your teen develop their self-esteem and inner strength!
- It’s important to remember that the teen years come with a lot of upheaval and intense emotions. So don’t be alarmed if your teen is dealing with big feelings. Reach out and start a conversation. Be open and respectful, without downplaying what your teen is feeling. The important thing is to stay connected to your teen.
- Spend time with them and share moments or activities together.
- Help your teen to become responsible and independent.
- Respect your teen and tell them you’re proud of the adult they’re becoming.
- If your teen is talking about death and dying, take it seriously. Call your local suicide prevention centre (1-866-APPELLE) for support.
- If you notice a change in your teen’s mood or ability to function that lasts for more than a few weeks, there are resources that can help you decide whether or not you should be worried and seek help.
Resources and practical tools
1. For support:
If you are dealing with a situation that has you worried, do not hesitate to reach out to a support worker or a health and social services professional:
If you or your teen are having suicidal thoughts and need help, call (24/7) :
2. To learn more:
Books and websites for teens:
- You have the last word
- Ça roule, by Danie Beaulieu at Québecor
Resources for parents:
Latest updates : May 2023