Seeking help for adolescents suffering from mental health problems

Psychological problems are quite common during adolescence. It has been estimated that about one in every five adolescents experiences depression, anxiety or excessive irritability, which has a negative effect on family relationships and friendship, as well as on school and hobbies.

The emotional problems are often temporary and a normal part of being an adolescent. Therefore it is sometimes difficult for parents or other adults close to the adolescent to know when professional help should be sought.

Depression, aggressiveness, eating disorders, family crises or problems at school are the most common reasons for seeking psychiatric treatment for adolescents. Help should be sought when the behaviour of the adolescent becomes alarming and it has clearly changed, and when this change has lasted for a long time, few weeks for example. Self-destructive behaviour and psychotic symptoms are always obvious reasons to seek help.

The primary place of treatment for an adolescent attending school is the school health care team or health care centre. Through school health care, the adolescent can meet with the school health nurse, school doctor, school psychologist or school counsellor. If necessary, the school doctor (or health care centre physician or private doctor) can write a referral for the adolescent for a youth psychiatric polyclinic.

If the problems of the adolescent require hospitalisation, they will be referred to the youth psychiatric ward. The nature of the problems of the adolescent will be assessed at the youth psychiatric ward and a treatment plan will be made. The adolescent may have to be admitted to the ward for the duration of the examinations and determination of treatment.

Hospitalisation usually takes a few weeks, after which the patient will be treated as an outpatient. However, the hospitalisation may last longer if necessary, or outpatient and inpatient care may alternate. The treatment is planned according to the individual needs of the adolescent, but his/her entire family will be taken into consideration.