It is completely normal for boys to experience ups and downs in response to everyday life events. However, when these ups and downs fluctuate or are experienced over a long period of time, it may indicate a mental health challenge, identified through mental health signs.
The World Health Organisation defines mental health as, “A state of wellbeing in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Being able to identify a mental health issue early is essential to ensuring that your son receives the support he needs. The National Institute of Mental Health has found that males and females may demonstrate different warning signs when they are facing mental health challenges. If you are concerned about your son’s mental health, here are some signs to look for:
1. Significant changes in behaviour
A mental illness can initially begin as subtle changes to a boy’s thinking or feelings. However, continuous and significant changes to his behaviour could be a sign that he is developing a mental health issue. As a parent, if you notice that something doesn’t seem quite right with your son, start the conversation about getting him the necessary help.
2. Feeling anxious or worried
Everyone gets worried or feels stressed every now and then, but stress can actually benefit boys. The difference is when stress is constant and negative. Interfering feelings of anxiety and worry can be a sign that there is a mental health issue developing.
3. Feeling depressed or unhappy
Have you noticed that your son has lost interest in a hobby he used to enjoy? Has he lost a sense of passion and energy? Appearing sad, irritable and lacking motivation over an extended time period can be signs that he may be dealing with depression.
4. Sleep problems
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that teenagers sleep 8 to 10 hours per night for optimum performance. However, when struggling with mental health, the impact can have a detrimental affect on their sleep. Significant challenges and changes to boys’ sleeping patterns — whether it’s an excess or a deficit — can be a sign of mental health challenges.
5. Changes in appetite
Wanting to lose or put on weight in order to be at a healthy level is a good thing. However, if you notice that your son’s weight fluctuates or that he experiences rapid weight loss or gain, this can be a warning sign of a mental illness, such as depression or an eating disorder.
6. Being withdrawn
We all need our quiet time and our own space in order to rest and recharge — but withdrawing from life can be an indicator that your son may be struggling with a mental illness. Do you find that he is regularly isolating himself or refuses to participate in social activities? Doing so may be a sign that he needs help.
7. Feeling guilty or worthless
Have you noticed that your son has developed low self-esteem and thinks negatively of himself? Regular thoughts such as, “It’s all my fault,” “I’m a failure” or “I’m worthless” are possible signs of a mental illness such as depression, and an indicator that professional help is required.
As a parent, when it comes to supporting your son’s mental health it’s essential that you make yourself available to him. If you notice that he demonstrates any of these signs, talk to him and help him understand that you are there to support.
At Christ Church Grammar School, we focus on maintaining good mental health and wellbeing for boys with dedicated programs through The Wynne Centre for Boys’ Health and Wellbeing. If you are interested in learning more information on boys’ health and wellbeing or would like tips on raising boys, subscribe to our monthly enewsletter.