Mental Health and Youth Health Services

Youth with mental health problems need a combination of treatment and community support services. Youth who receive these services may experience improved mental and physical health and lead more fulfilling lives.

Adolescence, from puberty to age 20 or later, is a time when mental illness such as anxiety and depression and more serious disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia tend to emerge.


Depression is a common mental health condition among adolescents. It can affect a teen’s ability to study, play, work and maintain healthy relationships. It is important for teens to get treatment early on to avoid symptoms from worsening.

Encourage your teen to talk about how they’re feeling with someone they trust, like their parent or teacher. It’s also helpful to point out the different sources of support, such as ReachOut, youthbeyondblue, Kids Helpline and headspace, that are available to them.

If they are diagnosed with depression, encourage them to participate in psychotherapy (talk therapy). This can include individual sessions with a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker, as well as group therapy. Regular exercise and adequate sleep can help improve mood, as can avoiding drugs and alcohol.


Many teenagers feel nervous or anxious occasionally, especially around school tests, college applications, or first dates. But those who feel these feelings frequently may have an anxiety disorder.

Typical symptoms of anxiety include persistent fear or worry, over-thinking, withdrawal from social activity, and avoidance of difficult situations. These feelings can also lead to physical health issues such as a rapid heart rate, dizziness, or headaches.

Anxiety disorders can be caused by a number of things, including inherited personality traits and life events such as trauma or the death of loved ones. Medications such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and antidepressants can reduce anxiety, but talk therapy is often necessary for long-term relief. Teens who don’t seek treatment may turn to drugs or alcohol to ease their symptoms, which can be dangerous.

Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder experience episodes of extreme highs and lows (mania and depression). During these episodes, they have changes in their mood or energy levels that are different from those of other people. The symptoms last for a week or more, and they affect how they feel, think and act.

People who don’t get treatment can have serious problems with family and work. They may also abuse drugs or alcohol. Adolescents with untreated bipolar disorder may experience a sudden onset of depression or mania at puberty, and they can be more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol than other teens.

There are medicines that can help control the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Many people who have it need psychotherapy or “talk therapy.” Different kinds of talk therapies can offer support, education and skills to help people with bipolar disorder and their families.


People with schizophrenia often have trouble telling what is real from what is not. They also may have difficulty keeping up with their daily activities or finishing projects they start. They can become withdrawn and show little interest in life or relationships. They may talk in a flat, disconnected way and have trouble remembering things or organizing their thoughts.

Schizophrenia usually starts in early adulthood. It can develop gradually or suddenly. It can affect boys and girls equally, but it is more common in males.

Medications can help keep symptoms under control. Psychiatrists typically try several medications, at different doses, before finding the best one for each person. Psychotherapy (talk therapy) can help people learn to cope with their symptoms and understand them better.


Trauma, the result of distressing or life-threatening events, can affect a student’s mental health. Symptoms, which include feelings of helplessness and fear, can disrupt a student’s academic performance and social and emotional well-being. While some people’s symptoms dissipate with time, others may require professional treatment. Some lifestyle factors, such as eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep, visiting friends and family, and avoiding drugs and alcohol, can reduce trauma symptoms.

Some experiences that can lead to trauma include the death of a loved one, serious illness or injury, car accidents, physical or sexual assault, military combat and dangerous natural occurrences, such as earthquakes. However, just about any experience that causes a person to feel overwhelmed and unsafe can lead to trauma.