Mental health for rangatahi

Some rangatahi may struggle with mental health issues which need professional help. Following are some of the more common concerns that young people may experience and how you can support them. 


Most people, at some point in their life, struggle with low self-esteem. This may be especially true for a young person with a FASD diagnosis because they may feel different, have trouble socially or struggle in school. As a parent, there are things you can do to try and help your young person feel good about themselves, such as: 

  • Create opportunities for your young people to build on their strengths, talents and interests.

  • Celebrate even the smallest of successes with your rangatahi.

  • Highlight your teenager’s strengths at school and with other service providers, to ensure they use and build on them.

  • Get your rangatahi involved in organised recreational activities that can provide opportunities for building friendships and experiencing success. Remember that they may need reminders about rules, practice and game times, as well as transportation to get to the activity.

Substance abuse 

There are many reasons why young adults with FASD may experiment with drugs or alcohol, such as low self-esteem, peer influence, a need to fit in or as a way to cope with their feelings. Following is a list of strategies that may help you to support your teen. 

  • Talk to your tamaiti / rangatahi about substance use and your whānau expectations about using alcohol and other drugs.

  • Be curious when asking your young person about their substance use but try not to judge. Staying neutral will encourage your young person to be honest with you.

  • If you suspect your young person has substance use problems or has developed an addiction, contact your local Alcohol and Drug Service for support and information about how to talk to your child or young person about substance use.  

  • Connect with your child/teenager’s school about what addiction/counselling resources are offered in their school.

  • Provide the counsellor with information about your child/teenager’s primary diagnosis to ensure the service provided is best suited to your teenager’s learning style.

  • Get involved to help your young person at home and in the community with the goals they set during counselling sessions.

  • Provide reminders and/or transportation to appointments.
  • You can read a new (2022) Canadian resource aimed at substance abuse professionals which may be helpful here

Self-Harming Behaviours 

Self-harming behaviours may take many forms, such as cutting, scratching, not eating, vomiting after eating (bulimia), not allowing wounds to heal, burning or hair pulling. It is important to know that self-harming is most often used as a way of coping. 

  • It is best to get professional help to find out if your child is using this as a way to cope with feelings. If that is the case, try to react calmly, without judgment or blame and be aware of your body language. Remember that your young person is already feeling hurt. Ask professionals for more ways you can help them overcome self-harming behaviours and develop healthy ways of coping.

  • Explore healthy coping methods your young person can use, such as writing their feelings in a journal, listening to music, drawing or other artwork, and exercising.

  • Use feelings charts to help your rangatahi normalise all feelings including anger, sadness and joy.