Mental Health and Youth Issues in Adolescence

Adolescence is a time when mental health issues like anxiety and depression as well as serious conditions such as bipolar disorder tend to emerge. This is a critical time for young people that can have lasting effects into adulthood.

Many young people experience these problems due to their living situations, being a part of marginalized groups or facing stigma and discrimination. They often report ambivalence about seeking help.


Depression can cause a range of problems for youth, from difficulty learning in school to feeling suicidal. If you think your teenager is depressed, encourage them to talk about it with someone they trust, such as a teacher, school counsellor, friend or family member.

Young people who feel depressed often withdraw from friends and activities they usually enjoy. This isolation can make the depression worse. Encourage them to talk to their doctor about their feelings. Psychologists can help by explaining what depression is and suggesting treatment options, such as psychotherapy (talk therapy) and medication.

Interpersonal therapy helps teens work through troubled relationships that may contribute to their depression. Some teens with severe depression need more intensive treatment, such as a psychiatric hospital or day program that provides counseling and other activities.


Anxiety is a normal response to feeling threatened by something real or imagined. It can be useful for pre-teens and teenagers to think about what might happen if they are in danger or nervous about an important event, but anxiety is a disorder when it becomes disproportionate and out of control.

Many young people may need treatment to help with anxiety. They can talk to a health professional or a counsellor at a youth counselling service like Youth Access. Specialist CYPMHS (child and young person mental health services) can also offer support.

There are lots of things that can help reduce anxiety, including: avoiding caffeine and alcohol; exercising; eating well; breathing exercises; and meditation. Talk therapy can also help. This includes psychotherapy and other types of talking therapies, such as acceptance and commitment therapy; dialectical behaviour therapy; and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). There are also medications to treat anxiety, including antidepressants and drugs in the benzodiazepine class such as alprazolam (Xanax). These can be prescribed by a health professional.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that can affect your ability to pay attention and control your behaviour. The symptoms can cause problems at home, school or work. They can also be a sign of other mental health conditions, like anxiety.

People with ADHD often have trouble concentrating for long periods of time, making careless mistakes or forgetting things. They may also have difficulty waiting their turn or seem to be unable to stop themselves from interrupting others.

People with ADHD can be treated by medication and/or behavioural therapy. Stimulant medicines such as methylphenidate (Concerta, Concerta XR, Focalin, Xelstrym), dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Adderall XR) and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse, Adhansia) are the most commonly used medications for ADHD. Non-stimulant treatments include behavioral therapy and executive function training for parents and teachers.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, which was formerly known as manic-depressive illness, affects moods and energy levels and differs from the normal ups and downs that everyone experiences. It usually appears in adolescence or adulthood but can appear earlier.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder include periods of mania, which can involve feelings like euphoria and grandiosity. They can also include breaks from reality, such as hallucinations or delusions. Children and teens who experience these episodes can find it hard to get along with others. They can have trouble in school, at work and in their relationships.

Getting the right treatment can help people with bipolar disorder live a healthy and active life. It may include taking medication and having psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or family focused therapy.


Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10- to 19-year-olds. It can have devastating effects on families and communities. Many teens who die by suicide have had a mental illness, including depression and anxiety disorders.

Other risk factors for suicide include access to weapons and medications; a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse; bullying; or a family history of death by suicide. People from certain groups, such as those who live in rural areas or those who work in some industries and occupations, also have higher rates of suicide than others.

Racism and discrimination can make it harder for some teens to find support in their communities. It can also affect how they perceive themselves and their relationships. Many youth suicide attempts occur after a crisis, such as a break-up or the loss of a loved one.