Parents, Are You Too Overwhelmed to Recognize Your Kids’ Mental Health Crisis?

Written By Dr. Mark Goulston 

It’s no secret that there’s a mental health crisis in today’s youth. Depression and anxiety are rampant, and suicide is now the second-leading cause of teen death. Parents are the first line of defense for recognizing suffering in their kids. But when parents themselves are overwhelmed, anxious, and depressed, they can miss warning signs that their children are at risk.

It’s hard enough for parents to pick up on their teens’ suffering under the best of circumstances. But when parents are immersed in their own stress and inner chaos, their kids’ problems are much harder to detect.

On top of that, when parents have no more psychological room for pain and anxiety, they may engage in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” game with their teens.

Parents avoid asking how their teens are really doing, because their plates are already full. If parents asked and got an alarming reply, they would have to drop everything. It’s not that they don’t love and care about their kids. They just don’t have time to deal with it. Meanwhile, teens don’t want to burden anxious parents (or confront their own pain) and so they suffer silently.

This collective suffering is why the message of new documentary Stay Alive (available here on YouTube), which serves at-risk populations, is so important. (#StayAliveNow). The documentary, featuring suicide survivor Kevin Hines and suicide prevention advocate Rayko, delivers messages of education, compassion, and caring for those who are in deep despair, along with guidance for their families and friends who love them.

The first step to being more available for your kids is to improve your mental health. And since May is Mental Health Month, now is a great time for a mental health check. These six questions can help you assess your own mental health:

1. In the past week, have you felt overwhelmed and thought, I can’t handle any additional stress?

2. In the past week, how often have you felt overwhelmed with no room to listen to more upset? (Rarely, somewhat, frequently, constantly)

3. In the past week, have you felt alone in handling all the responsibilities you have and stress you feel?

4. In the past week, how often have you felt alone in handling all the responsibilities you have and stress you feel? (Rarely, somewhat, frequently, constantly)

5. In the past week, have you withdrawn from the people around you because you couldn’t take any additional stress?

6. In the past week, have you felt guilty or ashamed at not being the patient, listening, and compassionate parent that your child needs and you want to be?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above and are feeling too overwhelmed, find someone you can talk to to help you feel some relief and make room to be able to listen to your child’s hurt, fear, anger, and pain. If you have no one to talk to, consider keeping a journal. Your feelings are important too, and writing them down will help you process some of what you are experiencing and feeling.

You owe it to yourself and your kids to become your very best self today. And when you’re in control of your mental health, you can really be there for them and help them thrive.

If you or someone you love needs help, call 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or visit 

Dr. Mark Goulston

Dr. Mark Goulston

About Dr. Mark Goulston:

Dr. Mark Goulston is the co-creator and moderator of the suicide prevention documentary Stay Alive. He is a former UCLA professor of psychiatry, FBI hostage negotiation trainer, suicide and violence prevention expert, and one of the world’s foremost experts on listening. He is the author of the best-selling “Just Listen”: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, which became the top book on listening in the world. Dr. Goulston’s HBR IdeaCast episode Become a Better Listener is ranked number one of all their podcasts. He is also host of the My Wakeup Call podcast. Dr. Goulston is on the Board of Advisors for HealthCorps and is the recipient of the Dr. W. Mark Warfel Resilient Heart Award.

For more information, visit Dr. Goulston’s website at 

About the Producers:

Producers Frank Kilpatrick ( and Linda Kilpatrick, along with director PaulEmami(, partnered withMark, Kevin, and Rayko to create Stay Alive to express the purpose of helping you or someone you love to find their way out of despair. We hope this video is a helpful catalyst for having conversations about those at risk or even with yourself. If you or anyone you know has been touched by suicide and is feeling isolated, we hope you find the video valuable and share it with others.

About Stay Alive (#StayAliveNow):

Stay Alive is a 75-minute video/podcast documentary serving at-risk populations. The program’s two sections, Understanding and Helping, deliver messages of education, compassion, and caring for those who are in deep despair, along with guidance for their families and friends who love them. Stay Alive is recommended for individuals, families, schools, communities, social services, and churches—anywhere there is a need. Moderated by Mark Goulston, MD, participants in Stay Alive’s intimate and disclosing discussion also include Kevin Hines, best known as the man who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived (, and suicide prevention advocate Rayko ( #StayAliveNow 

Stay Alive is available hereon YouTube, and will be available on Amazon Prime Video and other distribution channels free of charge.

For more information, please visit