Typical or Troubled

Do you ever wonder whether your teen’s emotions or behavior are just normal teen behavior or are indicative of something more concerning? The American Psychiatric Foundation has designed a program called Typical or Troubled to help parents and adults who work with teens understand when an adolescent may be in trouble because of a mental health disorder or a substance abuse problem. RAHS received a grant from The American Psychiatric Foundation for social workers to present this program to teachers and school staff at two middle schools in Washtenaw County as well as groups of parents in the fall of 2014.

The Typical or Troubled program helps adults understand what behaviors might indicate that a teen has a mental health problem, how to talk to the teen about the behaviors, and how to connect that teen to help.  The program helps adults be better able to “Notice, Talk, and Act” when they have concerns about a teen’s behavior. Adolescence is a time of rapid physical and psychological development that brings with it increased academic and social pressures.  Normal teens can, at times, be withdrawn, argumentative, worried, secretive, and prone to taking risks.   For teens who have mental health problems, the teen years can be even more difficult.

Two principles can help parents and other adults figure out whether certain behaviors are normal or indicative of something that needs to be evaluated by a mental health professional. An evaluation is warranted if the behavior lasts for a significant period of time or is extreme and out of character for that child, even if it happens only once. For instance, if a teen seems sad and withdrawn for two weeks or longer, this should be evaluated. If a teen engages in dangerous behaviors such as physical aggression toward others, running away, self-harming behaviors, or getting into trouble with the law, these should be evaluated.

The Typical or Troubled program provides some strategies to adults about how to talk to the teen about their concerns. Focusing on specific behaviors and expressing genuine concern may help the teen agree to talk to a helping person. Resources are provided for parents and school staff about where to direct adolescents to help. The RAHS School Based Health Centers are an excellent resource for teens, as well as school counselors, pastors, and family doctors.

The goal of the Typical or Troubled program is to ensure that adolescents who have mental health problems get the help they need as early as possible so they can lead more successful, productive lives. Adults who attend the presentation generally feel more confident in talking to the teens they love and work with about concerning behaviors and connecting them to help in their communities. If you would like to arrange for a Typical or Troubled presentation for your school or community program, please contact Jenna Neinhaus.

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