The Developing Teenage Brain & Mental Health
With the recent Stonybrook shooting, we’ve had many questions about teens and mental health. Based on The Bridge’s 42 year history working with teens and reviewing recent research about the developing teenage brain, we wanted to share a perspective.
Approximately 20% of teenagers have a diagnosable mental health disorder, with many of these disorders first presenting themselves in adolescence.
Adolescence can be a challenging time because the emotional systems in the brain are highly sensitive. Moodiness and impulsivity reign. When you’re a teen and you might also bear the added burdens of depression, anxiety, or a behavioral or other mood disorder, getting through each day can be overwhelming.
Layer on rocky family dynamics, chemical addiction or violence in the home, and impulsive behavior, characteristic for many teens, may likely overrule rational behavior.
During adolescence the brain is building neural pathways and behavior patterns that will last into adulthood. Thus, connecting teens with counseling or mental health support is critical to their health. Futures depend upon it.
The positive news is that adolescence is precisely the time when the brain is highly receptive to new strategies, particularly in the area of motivation and goal setting. The Bridge for Youth counselors can back this up. They see this in practice every day in our Emergency Shelter.
Trained in strength-based counseling, staff at The Bridge help young people identify their inherent strengths. Trained to look for the positive, staff may point out the incredible resiliency a young person has in coping with intense life difficulties. Through a 3-4 day stay at The Bridge, young people set goals and explore new options. And, in spite of the many difficulties that youth may be dealing with, they do absorb positive messaging.
When youth leave our facility, our goal is to send them off with renewed self esteem, forward-looking plans, and a new way of coping with life’s challenges. Those in need of ongoing mental health counseling are directed to appropriate resources.
If you know a child or a parent that is stressed, angry, or struggling with family conflict, call The Bridge for Youth to set up a free individual or family counseling session: 612-377-8800.