President's Rx: Teen Mental Health

The challenges teenagers face today are anxiety provoking. Bullying, peer pressure, hormonal changes — the emotional fallout from these things can lead to conditions like depression or cause teens to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms like smoking, drinking, drugs or sex.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by the age of 18. Girls are more likely than boys to experience depression, and the risk for depression increases, as a child gets older.

Here are some tips on raising emotionally healthy kids:

Communication. Find a time to talk when life topics are "fresh," like on the ride home from school. And make dinner a time to discuss everyone's day.

Expectations. You can't just be your teen's buddy; you need to be his or her advocate. Set rules and hold teens to them. If they break a rule, have a clear consequence.

Participation. Teens need to have positive outlets, like sports, music or art. They help to build self-esteem — by working hard to become proficient at something, teens develop a sense of accomplishment — and this also helps them to be organized.

Motivation. Encourage your teens when they struggle at home or at school. This helps them develop self-confidence in their own ability to handle life's situations.

Associations. Be sure to listen to that little voice inside telling you one of your teen's friends is up to no good. Your child also may have an uncomfortable feeling about the friend and just not know how to handle the situation. It's up to you to step in and take charge.

While the teenage years can be filled with sadness and irritability from time to time, if you notice your teen is struggling hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, or withdrawal from friends and family more than usual, talk to your pediatrician.