Every parent has a dream for their teenager and that includes that they enjoy good mental health. When it becomes clear that their child has developed a mental health disorder, moms and dads want to spring into action. But what if their child will not cooperate in seeking help? Can a teenager refuse mental health treatment? New View Wellness in Atlanta explores this difficult question in this article. We offer an array of outpatient treatments for mental illnesses, including a program designed specifically to help teenagers improve their mental health. We include the family in the treatment so that loved ones can learn to improve their communication and heal together.

Can a Teenager Refuse Mental Health Treatment?

When a teenager clearly struggles with a mental health disorder, a parent’s natural instinct is to get them the professional care they need as soon as possible. However, not every young person will agree to this plan. This leaves parents wondering, “Can a teenager refuse mental health treatment?” The answer depends on a few factors, including in which state the family lives. Some states require a minor to provide consent to enter a treatment program.

The exception to this is when a teenager is a clear danger to themselves or others because of having a mental health crisis. In most cases, they can be forced into an emergency treatment program like a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital or ward. These stays usually last around 72 hours with the goal being to stabilize the person so that they are safe while a plan is drawn up for continued treatment in a residential or outpatient setting. 

A parent may be able to convince their teenager that they have no choice but to attend therapy sessions. However, many therapists feel hesitant to work with resistant teenagers who have no interest in doing the work that therapy requires. The exception is if the therapist has been appointed by a court to provide therapeutic care. A parent may also convince their teenager they have to attend an outpatient or residential program. How successful this approach becomes depends on if the child is willing to develop an open mind and participate in their treatment. It also helps if the therapists providing treatment have experience working with teenagers who are initially resentful of getting care.

Signs a Teenager Needs To Be Forced Into Mental Health Treatment

Teenagers famously have mood swings related to their hormones and the challenges that come with adolescence. However, mental illness can cause symptoms that show a teenager needs focused treatment from mental health professionals. These signs include:

  • Constantly feeling depressed and hopeless
  • Suicidal feelings or actions
  • A consistent state of anxiety 
  • Panic attacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Mood swings ranging from deep depression to manic highs
  • Isolating
  • Doing poorly in school
  • Trouble having healthy relationships with family and friends
  • Acting irrationally or violently
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Using alcohol or drugs to minimize symptoms of mental illness

How To Talk To Your Teenager About Going Into Treatment

While a teenager can refuse mental health treatment in many cases, a parent can still take steps to try to convince them they need help. Begin by talking to your child when both you and they are in a calm place. Present getting treatment as a solution rather than a punishment. Do your homework before talking to them so you can understand what options exist and how they work. If they understand what happens in therapy sessions, outpatient programs, and residential facilities, it takes away false assumptions they may have. Encourage your child to ask questions and discuss what fears and concerns they have. 

Parents can offer to participate in a family therapy session so that everyone understands what treatment will look like for their child. As well, it affords the opportunity for everyone to speak openly and learn to work together.  Teenagers may feel worried about the possibility of taking prescription medications. Let them know that it can take a few attempts to find the right one and that many side effects prove temporary. 

If your teenager has a mental illness such as schizophrenia or other personality disorders, they may experience paranoia as a symptom. This may make it difficult to convince them that getting help is in their best interest. In these situations, parents may want to make an appointment with a therapist so they can brainstorm ideas for how to approach their child about getting treatment.

Can Doing an Intervention Help?

Most people have heard about doing an intervention when a family member has developed a severe addiction to alcohol or drugs. Interventions can also be performed when an individual has a mental illness that has compromised their ability to live their lives and they need immediate professional help. An intervention can be led by a family member or by a professional interventionist. The family members and sometimes close friends force a meeting with their loved ones and attempt to convince them that entering treatment is in their best interest. 

Teenagers can be stubborn by nature, and an intervention may not convince them to do the right thing. On the other hand, an intervention can help them understand how ill they have become and what treatment they can enter. It can also showcase the love their family has for them and that they just want to help them heal and reach their full potential. 

Find Mental Health Treatment For Teenagers in Atlanta

Are you a mother or father who worries about your child’s mental health? Do you suspect your son or daughter needs help but are running into a brick wall when it comes to getting them to cooperate? When this happens, parents often wonder, “Can a teenager refuse mental health treatment?” While the answer to this question depends on several factors, some programs prove better able to reach resistant teenagers than others.

New View Wellness in Atlanta provides an adolescent mental health program. We offer adolescent Partial Hospitalization Programming, along with adolescent Intensive Outpatient Programs. Our staff knows how to talk to young people and bring out their best efforts to heal.

If you would like to talk about options for getting your child the mental health treatment they need, visit our admissions page today. We can discuss ideas for how to get your child to participate in therapy sessions and begin to heal.