How to Identify Teens in Crisis

By Anna McMillan, LCSW

Here are some ways to identify when your teenagers may need additional support.

How to Identify Teens in Crisis

The adolescent years can be extremely challenging for some teenagers and their families. Virtually all teenagers go through emotionally difficult and stormy phases — and sometimes their struggles require intervention. Many teens struggle with issues related to mental health, family relationships, friends, school performance, substance abuse, sexuality, and other high-risk behaviors.

Teen Crisis Warning Signs

Here are some ways to identify when your teenagers may need additional support.

  1. Stay involved in your teen’s life. To be able to identify if your teen is in crisis, you need to be involved. Start conversations about school and activities. Ask questions about how he or she is feeling about school, friends, and activities.
  2. Recognize signs of depression/anxiety. Watch out for behaviors or comments that indicate your teenager is feeling overwhelmed by sadness or pessimistic views of their future.
  3. Warning signs can include:

    • Changes in appetite
    • Changes in sleep
    • Drop in grades
    • Starting to complain about physical ailments
    • Become socially isolated
    • More irritable than normal

  4. Watch for suicidal thoughts. When symptoms of depression include indications of helplessness and hopelessness, an adolescent may be at greater risk for suicide.
  5. Suicide warning signs include:

    • Talking about death
    • Recent death of a friend or close relative
    • Acting erratically or harming others
    • Feelings of worthlessness
    • No hope for the future

Getting help for a teen in crisis

If you’re worried about your teen, don’t wait to get help. Reach out to professionals as soon as you’re concerned your teenager needs more help.

Who to call:

  • Talk to your child’s primary care physician, a therapist, or psychiatrist, or bring them to the Emergency Department if suicidal behavior or intent is present
  • Call the Salt Lake County Crisis Line at 801-587-3000

If you reach out for help, be open with your teen about what you’re doing and why.