I was sitting at my desk working on a novel one afternoon when my sixteen-year-old son walked in. He looked at me and said, “Mom, I think I’m bipolar, and I got it from Dad.”
I asked him why he thought he was bipolar. His response? “I took a quiz online.” We went through the questions and answers together and I told him, “Son, this doesn’t mean you are bipolar. It means you are a teenager.”
Do you remember the wild mood swings of adolescence? On-top-ofthe world joy one minute, end-times despair the next? You couldn’t pay me enough to go through all of that again. But how do you know if your child is being a typical teenager or if they truly are dealing with a mental health disorder?
Almost half of all mental health disorders manifest by age 14. Seventyfive percent show up by age 24. One in five young people lives with a mental health disorder. Do you know the symptoms?
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the top ten signs to watch out for include:
• Feeling overly sad or withdrawn for over two weeks. Everyone gets down now and then, but if it lasts for more than 14 days, seek help. • Seriously trying to harm or kill yourself or making plans to harm yourself
• Severe, risky, out-ofcontrol behavior
• Sudden, overwhelming fear for no reason
• Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight; significant weight loss or weight gain
• Seeing, hearing or believing things that are not real
• Repeatedly using drugs or alcohol • Drastic changes in mood, behavior, personality or sleeping habits
• Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still
• Intense worries or fears that impede daily activities
If you experience any of these warning signs, or notice a friend showing these signs, please tell someone—a parent, teacher, counselor, coach, close friend or faith leader.
Don’t bottle it up. Don’t keep it all inside. Help is available. Asking for it is not a weakness, rather a strength. Be strong. Ask for help.
Until next time, remember to breathe.
GLENDA THOMPSON is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express and is currently writing an A-Z series on Mental Health. Glenda is not a doctor, therapist, mental health expert or medical professional, therefore, you should not use these columns as medical advice. Glenda resides in Charlotte where she is hard at work on the second novel in a series about Texas Rangers with dark secrets.