Adolescent Mental Health and New Ways for Life Skills

young people playing on road with sunset and new ways for life logo
 

Adolescent Mental Health and New Ways for Life Skills

@2023 Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq and Susie Rayner, GradDip FDRP

Approximately 25% of adolescents today would meet the criteria for at least one mental illness diagnosis, with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and attention deficit with hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) being among the most prevalent. For many adults, mental illness begins in adolescence: “More than one-third of all mental disorders begin before the age of 14 years, and nearly one-half by age 18.” Since 2007, “child and adolescent mental health have become prominent as a worldwide public health problem.” (Ribeiro et al, 2022, 2)


Stress on Parents

All adolescents face numerous difficulties navigating the years from 12 to 17. Parents are often at a loss as to how they can be most helpful through this period of significant ups and downs. They don’t know what is normal and what a parent is supposed to do. These challenges for parents include addressing the following teen problems:

    • mental health issues (diagnosed or undiagnosed)

    • mood swings (unpredictability with emotions and behaviors)

    • physical and hormonal changes

    • gender identity issues

    • teen peer pressure – exploration with illicit drugs and alcohol, sexual relationships and risk taking

    • a generation of just plain lazy

    • technology and setting limits on screens

    • online trolls and predators luring teenagers into dangerous and sometimes fatal situations

    • online scams and fake news

    • entitlement / selfishness

    • social media addiction and access to inappropriate content

    • teenage academic pressure and burnout


Limited Services

Yet only a small percentage of adolescents with mental health problems get the help they need, and parents of adolescents are particularly concerned about how they can help their teens. Since COVID began, waiting lists for therapists are long and when therapists are available their cost is beyond the reach of many (most?) families. But there may be another way of helping adolescents between the choices of therapy or nothing.

A recent major study looked at child and adolescent services in low-and-middle-income countries, where 90% of the world’s children live but also where most mental health services are unavailable or unaffordable. “Our main results show that several interventions have been shown to be effective in treating youth mental health problems in LMICs [low and middle income countries], particularly psychoeducation and psychotherapy, with 54.5% and 48.9% of studies finding positive results respectively,…” (Ribeiro et al, 2022, 9)

In other words, psychoeducational approaches may be just as helpful as psychotherapy, especially when psychotherapy is not available. In addition, this research found that “non-specialists” can be helpful in educating others about positive self-help skills.


New Ways for Life

With High Conflict Institute, we have developed four different methods of teaching skills that can be useful in high conflict situations—or any situations. We call them the 4 Big Skills for Life:

    1. Flexible Thinking

    2. Managed Emotions

    3. Moderate Behaviors

    4. Checking Yourself


We teach and apply these skills in detail in four settings
:

    1. New Ways for Families®: For separating and divorcing parents

    2. New Ways for Mediation℠: Mediation skills for all mediators

    3. New Ways for Work®: Coaching method for anyone in the workplace

    4. New Ways for Life™: For teenagers 12-17 (approximately)


In the New Ways for Life method, we apply these 4 Big Skills specifically by teaching teens
:

    1. How to write emails, texts, DMs and social media posts that are BIFF (Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm) This can be so helpful because of all the stressful communications they get from their peers. (Moderate behaviors)

    2. How to calm themselves with Encouraging Statements, even when no one else is around who feels encouraging. (Managed emotions)

    3. How to use our Making Proposals process, to help them learn to make decisions with their friends and family members in a productive way. (Flexible thinking)

    4. Taking responsibility and not just blaming others. (Checking themselves)

When we developed New Ways for Life, we wanted it to be simple and immediate in its applicability for teenagers. So, there is a Youth Journal that guides them through the skills, explaining each of them and encouraging them to write in the Journal about their perspective on each skill and how they might apply them.

We explain the value of each skill and that they take practice. This includes some commentary on the brain and how we can learn to tame our brain when it makes us terribly upset. There is also an Instructor’s Guide giving you a step by step guide into teaching these skills in your choice of a group environment or in a 1:1 setting.


Coaching Adolescents with New Ways for Life

This method is designed for many kinds of professionals who can be the coaches:

    • youth leaders/groups

    • school counselors

    • youth counselors or therapists

    • youth mentors or coaches

    • youth community support centers

    • youth justice /prevention support workers

    • sports coaches

    • parents

    • school teachers

    • any parent or professional that is involved with or works with young people ranging from 12 – 17 years old.

For example, you might be a sports coach and want your team to play the game cohesively and work together to be the best they can be as a team. We know that the top athletes spend money on mind-set coaches, so that their minds are positive and in alignment with their athletic ability. It’s not all about their sporting ability, it’s also about how they act, how they think and how they interact with their team-mates.

As professionals we are rearing the next generation of politicians, doctors, teachers, builders, computer IT experts and so on. These skills are a gift. They are simple, fundamental skills, helping them so that they can be their best in difficult and stressful situations in their future lives.

As parents, we all know that parenting doesn’t come with a handbook, however, you can help by teaching these skills to your adolescent. You will be giving them life skills that they can use as they venture out into the big wide world and in their home environment, and who knows, they may even teach their parents a thing or two about managing emotions and thinking flexibly. They are skills that many of us, looking back, probably wish we had known when we were their age.


Conclusion

Psychoeducation can only go so far in treating adolescent mental health problems, and “non-specialists” (non-therapists) lack the in-depth training that is needed to handle many serious mental health issues. But even so, parents, teachers, coaches, and others can help many of today’s adolescents through difficult times by giving them an educational approach to learning self-management skills that can last a lifetime: flexible thinking, managed emotions, moderate behavior, and checking themselves.

The New Ways for Life method is low-cost and easy to teach with an Instructor’s Guide and a Youth Journal. A three (3) hour on-demand online training for adults who want to be coaches with this method is available and can be put to immediate use. New Ways for Life is empowering for teenagers who often feel lost in today’s world of constant pressures and fewer positive role models than in years past. New Ways for Life is a gift for all their tomorrows.

For more information about New Ways for Life:

Contact us here or email us newways@highconflictinstitute.com with questions.


Reference

Ribeiro, W. S., et al. “A systematic review of evidence-based interventions for child and adolescent mental health problems in low- and middle-income countries,” Comprehensive Psychiatry, 121 (2023).

 

Bill Eddy headshot

BILL EDDY, LCSW, ESQ. is the co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer of the High Conflict Institute in San Diego, California. He pioneered the High Conflict Personality Theory (HCP) and is viewed globally as the leading expert on managing disputes involving people with high-conflict personalities. He is the creator and developer of the New Ways methods, which focuses on teaching or using four simple skills that help people learn to manage their emotions, use flexible thinking, take responsibility for their actions, and have moderate behaviors so they can move forward.  He has written more than twenty books on the topic, developed methods for managing high-conflict disputes, and has taught professionals in the U.S. and more than ten countries. He is also co-host of the popular podcast, It’s All Your Fault, and writes a popular blog on Psychology Today.

 

Susie Rayner headshot

SUSIE RAYNER, FDRP, is a mediator, co-parenting coach, and New Ways Manager for the High Conflict Institute. Prior to becoming a dedicated family dispute resolution practitioner and family coach in 2018, she held positions in the corporate arena for 20 years. She also works in other areas of dispute resolution and volunteers with organizations that support people in crisis. She is the co-author of New Ways for Life™ Instructor’s Guide and Student Journal with Bill Eddy.

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