Children and Teens in Crisis

youth in crisis

As the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, children and teens are in crisis. Rates for mental health concerns and suicide have been climbing before and during the pandemic.

Family therapy, positive coping skills, and healthy boundaries are all key to helping adolescents thrive. They also need to know that asking for help is a sign of strength.


During this time, children and teens are trying to figure out who they are and where they belong in the world. They also start to develop morals and values that they will carry with them throughout their lives.

In some societies adolescence is narrowly equated with puberty and the onset of reproductive maturity, while in others it includes more psychological and social development. In both types of societies, the impact of economic crises on adolescents varies widely based on the meaning that they attach to those crises.

When adolescence is considered in terms of its role in neurobiological, cognitive and emotional development, it is easy to see why the current state of youth mental health can be so alarming. The stressors of adolescence have been intensified by the recent economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, and they have been compounded by decades of underfunding.


Poverty is a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break. It is often determined by social factors such as race, gender and location. People who live in poverty often have limited access to basic services, education and health care. In addition, people in poverty are more likely to have poor skills and be unable to move out of poverty on their own.

People who struggle with poverty face many challenges, including difficulty making ends meet, living in unstable housing conditions, and not having enough food. This is a significant issue for youth and has a direct impact on their mental health. Poverty can also lead to substance abuse and homelessness. Crisis services aim to help individuals in a behavioral health crisis and connect them with appropriate long-term treatment.


The growing scale of armed conflict across the world has pushed violence onto the public health agenda. Many young people are directly involved, as victims and perpetrators. They are also affected by the polarisation of gender roles during conflict, which can see women targeted for sexual violence and recruitment into militias.

Those disenchanted by society are often forced to live on the fringes, where they eke out a living from illegal trade or become “coupeurs de route”, road bandits. Such lifestyles can also put them at risk of HIV infection and other diseases.

Many youth in crisis have poor mental health. They may experience depression, substance abuse or suicidal ideation. There are several resources available online, including national and international nonprofit organizations. However, many of these don’t address youth voice.


Suicide is a serious public health issue that is a leading cause of death among youth. In 2021 alone, more than 48,000 adolescents died by suicide. Teens who attempt suicide often have thoughts of wanting to die and a plan for how they would do it. They may also express feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness.

If you think a teen is in crisis, call 911 or a local crisis line. They can give you information about resources in your area. In the United States, suicide rates vary by state and by age, race/ethnicity and gender. The rate is highest for American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Hispanic White males.


When children and parents affected by conflict, protracted crises and disasters are asked to rank their needs, education is always among the top priorities. In addition to enabling them to access life-saving services, education offers them protection from sexual abuse and recruitment into armed groups or other violence.

But in many situations, schools are themselves the sites of conflict and crisis. That’s why many law enforcement agencies are adopting crisis intervention team (CIT) and CIT-Youth training, which teaches officers how to recognize when a youth may be in mental or emotional distress so that they can better refer them for appropriate help. The goal is to avoid the pitfalls of suspension, expulsion and arrest, while creating more positive long-term outcomes for young people and society at large.