Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Does My Teen Need a Therapeutic Boarding School?

3 teenage mental health issues that can benefit from residential treatment.

Key points

  • A coalition of the nation's leading experts in pediatric health has declared a mental health crisis among adolescents.
  • New research shares that nearly half of teens are now online constantly, which can be blamed for high rates of depression and anxiety.
  • Cyberbullying is linked with suicidal thoughts and attempts in adolescents, as well as self-harm and poor academic performance.
 Polina Kovaleva/Pexels
Source: Polina Kovaleva/Pexels

We are facing an unprecedented mental health crisis among adolescents. Many parents recognize that their child needs more help than they can offer. It's no longer typical teenage behavior.

Their home has now become a battleground and they've exhausted their local resources.

Considering a therapeutic boarding school is a major decision for a family of a troubled teen. How do you know when your teen is ready for this big step?

You've tried

  • Local therapy; your teen either refused to attend or shut down.
  • The school setting isn't working.
  • Outpatient treatment has failed.
  • A short-term hospital stay was unsuccessful.

You're not alone. Since 2019, youth depression and anxiety has doubled and parents across the country have been struggling. Social media is threatening the mental health and well-being in young people's lives. The Teens, Social Media, and Technology 2022 study by Pew Research reported that nearly half (46 percent) of teens say they are now online constantly.

This is very troubling since one of the most common reasons for our teenage mental health crisis revolves around screen time.

Dr. Michele Borba, author of Thrivers: Reasons Why Some Kids Struggle and Others Shine, said that, in more than 40 years working in schools, she has never been so concerned for young people's well-being:

Today’s teens are smart, open, and well-loved but also the loneliest, most anxious and risk-averse than any previous generation. The more they spend on devices and screens, the less they connect face-to-face with peers which only increases anxiety and isolation. Our teen’s mental health has become a national emergency.

3 Reasons for Therapeutic Boarding Schools

1. Technology

There’s no doubt that there are many positive aspects to being connected online to friends and family, as well as using your device as an educational tool; however, extensive use of social media or video gaming also carries risks. A few include the following:

  • Depression, anxiety, withdrawal
  • Quickness to anger, rage, explosive behavior (especially if the parent removes the device)
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, changing eating habits
  • School refusal, skipping classes, poor academic performance

Experts say risks increase when adolescents obsess about gaining “likes” on their posts and make comparisons between their own appearance or life circumstances and that of others. The fact that these young people are constantly seeking approval and gratification through strangers on social media is worrisome.

This contributes to diminishing their self-worth, which leads to them making poor choices. In addition, it adds to mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, self-harm, and even thoughts of suicide.

2. Cyberbullying

Since the start of the pandemic, cyberbullying has increased 40 percent among teens.

Never underestimate the power of words that can emotionally wound a child, especially a teenager that may already be struggling with self-esteem. With cyberbullying, it can be more cruel and hateful since it spreads not only throughout the school but also your community and globally. It’s literally worldwide humiliation of online shame.

With the anonymity of social media, it’s made it easier for peers to engage in malicious pranks as well as sexting scandals, which we've seen in both middle schools and high schools that have crisscrossed our nation.

Studies have found adolescents who experience cyberbullying are about twice as likely to engage in self-harm, including attempted suicide, as those who do not experience such bullying.

Being a victim of online bullying also puts adolescents at a higher risk for having an eating disorder, aggression, depressive affect, anxiety, and delinquent behaviors.

3. Substance abuse

It didn't take drug dealers long to find the digital playgrounds for their newest customers; teenagers. Social media apps such as TikTok, Instagram, and Snap Chat and emojis are being used by drug traffickers to try to snare young people—causing youth drug deaths to soar.

The Internet (social media) is mainly how teens are getting drugs (illicit pills) now, and many of these pills contain fentanyl.

Substance-abusing youth are at higher risk than nonusers for mental health problems, including depression, conduct problems, personality disorders, suicide ideation, and suicide. A disturbing trend is the dramatic rise in teens using online searches for self-poisoning to end their life.

If your family has a history of substance abuse, your teen is at higher risk for addiction.


Teens who reported they spend too much time on social media also said it would be a struggle to completely step back. This is a problem that is not getting better as apps continue to evolve.

It's time for parents to be seriously concerned about their teen's screen time and how it affects their mental health.

When a teen is removed from their devices and social media and enrolled into a therapeutic setting, they can stop the downward spiral (of living for likes and other mental health concerns related to excess screen time as listed above) and begin an upward positive course in a therapeutic boarding school.

Your teen will not only get back on track academically, but they will also develop the coping skills needed to manage a healthy relationship with technology.

If you or someone you love is contemplating suicide, seek help immediately. For help 24/7, dial 988 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. To find a therapist near you, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


APA, (2022) US youth are in a mental health crisis—we must invest in their care

JAMA Network, (2021) Global Prevalence of Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms in Children and Adolescents During COVID-19

PEW Research, (2022) Teens, Social Media and Technology

Johns Hopkins, (2019) Social Media Use by Adolescents Linked to Internalizing Behaviors

JAMA Network, (2022) Teen Trends in Overdose Death Rates

Science Daily, (2018) Young victims of cyberbullying twice as likely to attempt suicide and self-harm

AAP, (2021) AAP-AACAP-CHA Declaration of a National Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health

Frontiers, (2018) Cyber Victimization Is Associated With Eating Disorder Psychopathology in Adolescents

NIH, (2014), The impact of cyberbullying on adolescent health

Cyberbullying Research Center (2021), Cyberbullying Statistics 2021 | Age, Gender, Sexual Orientation, and Race

More from Sue Scheff
More from Psychology Today