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If you have questions about adolescent mental health, you’re not alone. As a parent or caregiver, it can be difficult when your teenager is going through hard times. They may not know what to do or where to turn. Below, we answer your frequently asked questions and connect you to Behavioral Health resources.

What types of behaviors should I be concerned about in my child?

Adolescence is a time of many changes. At times, even typical adolescent behavior can be challenging. Knowing what to expect from your adolescent and how to know what types of behaviors are concerning is important.

Common “red flags” to watch for in older children and adolescents include:

  • Changes in mood or personality that are not typical for your child, such as anger, feelings of hopelessness, rage, etc.
  • Loss of interest in activities that he or she previously enjoyed
  • Difficulties falling or staying asleep, or sleeping all the time
  • Changes in weight, appetite or eating patterns
  • Unexpected or dramatic decline in schoolwork
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or talking about it

What mental health conditions are commonly seen in adolescents?

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use and abuse
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

What do I need to know about tobacco, alcohol or other drugs?

This is a growing concern about substance abuse among adolescents, teens, young adults, their parents and community members. There are programs available to support non-use and focus on prevention and education, as well as programs to help those who struggle with alcohol and other drug issues. We can connect you to programs within the community and here at Gundersen.

Who can I turn to for help?

Start by talking to your child’s primary care provider (PCP). PCPs specialize in taking care of your child’s overall health and well-being. Because they know your family and your child’s medical history best, they can help gauge whether your concerns are normal for your child’s age/development or make referrals if additional support is needed. Find your child's PCP.

How can I find a Behavioral Health provider on my own?

Your child’s primary care provider can connect you to our team of Behavioral Health providers. In addition, our Behavioral Health Assessment & Referral Team assists first-time callers in determining a good fit for your child, adolescent or family by asking basic questions about the nature of your concern. These questions include:

  • Your child's age
  • The reason for your call
  • Your location and scheduling preferences
  • Screening for urgency.

Based on your responses, our team will schedule you or your child accordingly. Call (608) 775-7991 or (800) 362-9567, ext. 57991.

What can I expect from an initial Behavioral Health assessment?

An initial assessment is typically 60-90 minutes and may include the provider speaking individually with parents/caregivers, individually with your child/adolescent and/or a combined interview. The intent is to gather information about the problem and pertinent history, do an assessment for safety and develop preliminary treatment plans. This is also an opportunity for your provider to get to know you and your family, and for you to get to know her or him.

A provisional diagnosis may be discussed with you at the initial visit. However, the process of assessment is often ongoing. Particularly with young people, assessment may occur over one or more sessions. "Diagnosis" is simply looking at the presenting problem, and "naming" it, which is valuable in developing a positive plan of action.

I'm concerned about my family's privacy. How is this addressed?

You have the right to privacy and confidentiality. Treatment records and conversations about your child’s treatment are kept confidential. Records and conversations about your treatment are revealed to others only as required by law or with your written consent or the consent of your legal representative. Two exceptions are:

  • Reporting either suspected or actual child abuse to the appropriate authorities as required by law
  • When not disclosing information would pose a clear threat of physical harm to oneself or others.

If you or your child have questions about your privacy or the process of treatment at any point, it is important to discuss these with your current care provider.

How might group therapy benefit my child or adolescent?

Research shows group therapy is one of the most effective interventions for young people. Group therapy provides a place where you and your child can come together with others to:

  • Share problems or concerns
  • Better understand your own situation
  • Better understand your own patterns of thoughts and behaviors and those of others
  • Learn from and with your peers

Group therapy can help you and your child learn about yourselves and improve your interpersonal relationships. It can address feelings of isolation, depression or anxiety and help to build skills. It can also help you and your child make significant changes you feel better about the quality of your lives.

What should I do in case of an emergency or crisis?

If you’re concerned about the immediate health or safety of your child, call 9-1-1 or go to your local emergency room. Additional 24-hour resources for crisis management include calling Great Rivers 211 by dialing 2-1-1 on your phone or calling the La Crosse Children's Crisis Program at (608) 784-HELP (4357).

To report suspected abuse of a child, contact your local County Human Services Department and ask to speak with a Child Protection Intake worker.

How do I know if my adolescent is suicidal or harming themselves?

Teens who are suicidal may have some warning signs including:

  • Change in eating and sleeping habits
  • Withdrawal from things they use to enjoy
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and appearance
  • Noticeable personality changes
  • Rebellious behavior
  • Drug and/or alcohol abuse
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Declining grades in school
  • Difficulty accepting compliments or praise

Other signs that a teen may be considering suicide or even have a suicide plan include:

  • Saying they want to die or are thinking about committing suicide
  • Giving verbal hints such as 'I want you to know something in case I'm not here anymore' or 'I won't be a problem for you much longer'
  • Writing suicide notes
  • Giving away or getting rid of personal belongings
  • Becoming suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
  • Expressing bizarre thoughts or hallucinations
  • Self-injury such as cutting, burning or head-banging

Why might an adolescent be hospitalized psychiatrically?

A young person may be hospitalized psychiatrically if there is concern that without additional supervision that child may be at risk for significant self-injury or death. Your child's PCP, current provider in Behavioral Health or on-call staff can assist in making this determination and developing appropriate safety plans.

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