Mental Health and Youth in Crisis

youth in crisis

Youth in crisis are vulnerable to a variety of problems that can have long-term effects on their mental health. These include poverty, lack of education and societal disengagement.

Many of these youth need community teams that can serve them as alternatives to emergency rooms. States such as New York, Massachusetts, and Oklahoma have already started to do this.


After creating a show set in the present (The Simpsons) and one set in the future (Futurama), cartoonist Matt Groening headed back to medieval fantasy with Disenchantment, an animated series that centers on rebellious alcoholic princess Bean and her demon-possessed companion Elfo. Set in Dreamland, the kingdom of medieval fantasy Europe, the world of Disenchantment is populated by elves, mermaids, put-upon peasants, heartless royals and invading hordes.

The term “disenchantment” was coined by sociologist Max Weber to describe the process by which modern science erodes the sway of religion and superstition. For Weber, this process of disenchantment is a step towards the eu- ropadication and cultural rationalization of society. It also results in the dismantling of transcendent values and their replacement with individual emotional fulfillment.


In addition to a lack of basic resources such as food, shelter and medical care, poverty can also limit education opportunities and increase the likelihood that children will drop out. Moreover, it often contributes to mental health struggles. In fact, a study on children in poverty found that they experienced more stress and were less able to cope with the challenges of life than their peers from middle-class families.

Poverty can affect a child in many ways, from access to clean water (which means that they spend more time and energy on collecting and transporting it) to the risk of disease as a result of inadequate healthcare. It can also exacerbate the impact of disasters and conflicts that lead to economic instability. It is therefore crucial to tackle poverty through policies that support families on low incomes, such as SNAP or EITC.


Adolescence is a time of major physical and cognitive growth. It is a period of rapid social and emotional development, often marked by intense peer-focused activities and a desire for personal independence.

In many cultures adolescents experience significant rituals marking the transition from childhood to adulthood, such as a bat mitzvah or graduation. However, youth in crisis may lack such road-marks and design their own rites of passage through gang violence, drug use or pregnancy.

Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to risk-taking behaviour that could lead to a range of negative outcomes such as low educational achievement, poor health status, injury and death. They also are vulnerable to depression and behavioural disorders. Research suggests that a positive, stable attachment to at least one caring adult can mitigate these negative influences and reduce their vulnerability.


Young people have never known a world without HIV, and they bear the brunt of it: a third of new infections are in the 15- to 24-year-old group. They also face high mortality rates due to AIDS.

They are more likely to have unprotected sex and share used needles, making them more susceptible to infection. In addition, poverty drives many into at-risk situations, and lack of access to education means they do not have the skills or confidence to negotiate safe sex.

It is time for the government to recommit to fighting the epidemic and go beyond strategies to push through internal barriers and implement policies that directly target youth. This includes re-engaging young men, increasing the number of girls and women receiving comprehensive sexuality education and empowering them to use ART to stay virally suppressed.


The crime of human trafficking robs people of their freedom, dignity and potential at the hands of criminal networks who exploit them for profit. They often prey upon those most vulnerable including children involved in the child welfare system, runaway and homeless youth and people with a range of mental health issues.

A recent study used historical cohort research to search a large database of mental health records and identify trafficked children, then matched them to a control group. Clinical records from these children revealed a high prevalence of physical and sexual violence in addition to an increased risk of depression, anxiety and suicidal behaviour.

These victims have long-term mental health needs including the need for specialised trauma therapy, family counselling and community outreach. Unmet educational and life skills needs also impede their progress, which further increases their risk of future re-victimization.