Top Reasons Teens Don’t Receive Treatment

By Gaan Akers, LPC, NCC | January 29, 2024

Teenagers face many challenges, and one of the most significant obstacles is managing their mental health, including seeking help for conditions like anxiety and depression. While speaking about these conditions might be more acceptable now than before, it doesn’t minimize the struggles teens face when living with mental health illnesses. 

That’s why understanding the factors preventing teenagers from getting mental health treatment is essential. As parents, you can find appropriate and long-lasting relief and care for your child by identifying and addressing why teens refuse treatment. 

In This Article

Why Don’t Teenagers Seek Help for Anxiety and Depression?

Social, economic and information barriers are some reasons teens do not seek help for anxiety and depression. Teens might feel judged by their peers and families about seeking help significantly due to the stigmas around mental health. They may also worry about the costs of getting treatment and support services, especially in families or households with limited finances. 

Another reason is the lack of or access to information on getting support and treatment. By identifying the barriers to mental health treatment, you can better better understand the reasons teens refuse help for anxiety and depression. 

Mental Health Stigmas

Stigma in mental health is often a lack of understanding or fear of mental illness conditions. These perspectives lead to negative quotations around mental health and treatments. Media and inaccurate representations can also create stigmas around mental illness.

These stigmas can affect how teens view themselves and others, making them more reluctant to seek treatment. According to the World Health Organization, 14% of people aged 10-19 experience mental health conditions. Many of these adolescents do not seek help, significantly due to stigmas. These stigmas can include public, self and institutional ideas: 

  • Public: Negative attitudes about mental health can often lead to teens experiencing discrimination, social exclusion and prejudice.
  • Self: This involves cynical or unfavorable opinions and attitudes towards oneself, including negative self-perception criticism and internalized shame.
  • Institutional: This stigma refers to unintentional or intentional systemic biases in governments, schools and workplaces. 

These views, actions or beliefs can impact teenagers seeking treatment for mental illness, including stopping their treatment or delaying it. Here are some common ways depression and anxiety stigmas prevent teens from seeking help:

  • Embarrassment: Teens fear judgment or feel ashamed or their mental health condition.
  • Exclusion: Kids worry about not being accepted or getting bullied or harassed by peers. 
  • Confidentiality: Teens are afraid others might find out about their condition or treatment, especially when their culture or traditions oppose mental health treatment.
  • Doubt: When teenagers try speaking out and seeking support and do not get suitable help or understanding, they can feel hopeless and less willing to try the treatment.
  • Defensiveness: Negative attitudes like bias, judgment or exclusion can make teens feel aggravated and become sensitive when you bring up getting help for their condition.
  • Self-reliance: Associations of mental illness and weakness can lead teens to ignore or deny their condition and refuse to ask for help or open up about their feelings. 

Practical Barriers

Teenagers might feel support services are too expensive, especially in families with limited resources or single incomes. While your kid knows you’ll do anything to support them, it is normal for them to feel concerned about the cost of treatment. Your child may be unaware that there are many affordable and convenient support services. Teenagers may also think that seeking treatment takes up too much time and worry about becoming committed to taking medication. 

Lack of Information and Awareness 

When teenagers have limited information on anxiety and depression, they might not understand the seriousness of their condition. Your teen might believe treatment is unnecessary or not for them because they don’t understand the roles of support services and the types of practices they offer. Additionally, some schools or facilities might be ill-equipped to identify mental health conditions or lack the resources to provide appropriate support. This lack of awareness and support can make kids feel hopeless or less trustworthy about treatment solutions. 

Peer Influence 

Peers can influence the way teens view and deal with their condition. Feeling accepted by one’s peers is vital for teens, and your child might fear being rejected or victimized for seeking treatment. They might want help but worry about their social standing and how their friends will receive them. This predicament can be challenging for teens, and many might choose to avoid treatment to prevent rejection from their schoolmates. 

How Families Can Support Their Teens

How Families Can Support Their Teens

Families play a vital role in helping kids deal with their anxiety and depression. You can help your child feel comfortable discussing their condition, including stigmas and negative perceptions about mental health. Encouraging them to explain their feelings and providing caring responses and solutions can make them feel understood and supported. It can also help strengthen your bond and relationship and make them feel more positive about treatment. 

Change the Narrative 

Your child might have a negative view of treatment due to various stigmas. This perception can make them less eager to get treatment. One way to address their concerns is by changing the narrative around getting support. Instead of thinking of treatment as a consequence of their condition, you can frame it more positively and transform their ideas on the role of support. 

For example, you can compare the support to having a mentor, coach or teacher similar to a sports professional or musician. Help them understand that every person needs coaching or help not to fix them but to help them improve their skills and succeed in all they do. Involving your family in treatment can also help your teenager know that everyone can benefit from support, making them feel less isolated or singled out. 

Prioritize Your Teenager’s Needs

Your kid might feel discouraged or helpless about improving or overcoming their anxiety and depression. These feelings can often be a side effect of their condition, making it challenging for them to see a positive or successful outcome. Focusing on your teenager’s objectives for treatment is an excellent way to motivate them to reach their goals. 

Ask questions like “What do you want to achieve from this treatment?” or “What goals do you want to reach?” Their response can be as simple as waking up earlier in the morning or completing more homework, but if your teen knows and believes they’re doing this for themselves, they may feel more inspired to get treatment. 

Get Compatible Treatment 

When your teenager feels comfortable with their specialist or respects them, they can be more willing to engage and complete treatment. If they received treatment prior and did not want to return, you must try to understand why. 

Find out what they didn’t like about their previous treatment or what qualities they prefer in someone so you can find a more compatible specialist. Another way to get accurate professional help is by interviewing and selecting a specialist as a family. This way, your teen will feel like they have more control over their treatment. 

Keep Supporting Your Teen 

It’s normal for teens to be reluctant when getting treatment. If they say no the first time, don’t get discouraged — continue supporting your teen and let them know you’re here for them. You can also use the strategies above and speak to your specialist about more strategies to encourage your teen to get treatment.

Get Treatment and Support for Your Teen at Hillside®

Helping resistant teens into treatment can be challenging, and numerous barriers can make this task more overwhelming. By understanding these barriers, like the stigmas, lack of awareness and peer factors affecting your child, you can address them appropriately and use suitable strategies to encourage your teen to get treatment. 

At Hillside®, we understand the resistance you may face when your child suffers from anxiety and depression and know that you are doing all you can to get them suitable care. That’s why we prioritize you and your teen in our treatment and work to ensure your family gets reasonable solutions that focus on strengthening your relationships and providing the care your child needs. 

Contact us today to get support for your teen in need. 

Get Treatment and Support for Your Teen at Hillside®

Author

  • Hillside Clinical Education & Referral Relations Manager - Gaan has been working with children, adolescents, and families for over 10 years in various settings. In her current role, she provides education and training for mental health professionals, parents, and the community. She lives in Atlanta with her husband. In her free time, she enjoys reading, hiking, climbing, and cooking. She is a donut aficionado and a national park enthusiast!

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