Mental Health in Adolescence

Adolescence is a time when mental health challenges—including anxiety and depression—often emerge. In the decade prior to 2019, suicide rates for teens jumped 40% in large fringe metro areas, and they spiked even more during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These problems can affect all aspects of youths’ lives, including their school and grades, decision making and their health.


Feeling sad or low occasionally is a normal part of life but depression is much more serious and can have a big impact on our lives. It can make us feel hopeless, worthless and like things will never improve. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders and it can affect people of all ages.

In teens, symptoms may include a persistent low mood, irritability, feelings of worthlessness and anger, troubled relationships, self-harm, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, drug or alcohol misuse or a decline in school performance. Some teens may not want to talk about their symptoms and might hide their concerns from friends and family.

Depression is treated with talking therapy and sometimes medications. It can take time to find the right treatment and there may be some trial and error with different medicines.


Anyone can have an anxious moment, but when it’s chronic or overwhelming, it may be a sign of an anxiety disorder. It can cause you to avoid people and activities because you worry about them. This can lead to problems at work and school.

Anxiety can be triggered by a negative life event or a buildup of stress over time. It can also run in families and be influenced by personality.

If your child or teen has severe, long-lasting anxious feelings that interfere with their schoolwork, socialising and everyday activities, it’s a good idea to talk to them about getting professional help. The sooner they get help, the more likely they are to recover.

Bipolar Disorder

All kids and teens have rough patches when they’re down or irritable, but if these episodes get worse, last longer and interfere with daily life, it may be more than just “teenage angst.” It could be an early sign of bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of this mental health condition can range from emotional highs called mania or hypomania to serious depression. During manic episodes, teens often think and speak fast, need little sleep, and feel overly happy for no apparent reason.

Medications and therapy are both important for treating bipolar disorder in teens. Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, can help a teen work out stress and improve relationships with family and friends. A study showed that interpersonal and social rhythm therapy helped teens with this condition stabilize their moods and establish regular sleep-wake cycles.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD can affect many areas of life including school and family relationships. Teens with ADHD are at higher risk for anxiety, substance abuse and behavioral/conduct disorders. They may have trouble building friendships, and often feel rejected by peers.

Therapists can teach teens strategies to improve focus and self-control, cope with distracting feelings, and improve social skills and interpersonal interactions. They can also help them understand their ADHD and its effects.

While it isn’t clear what causes ADHD, it tends to run in families. Researchers think it has to do with genes and changes in brain chemicals. Symptoms can worsen during adolescence, when a person is faced with increased academic and social demands. They can also become more impulsive and engage in risky behaviors, such as drug use and sexual activity.


Trauma is the result of an emotionally disturbing or life-threatening experience that leaves lasting adverse effects on mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. There is a strong connection between trauma and chronic health conditions, particularly those that affect the brain and nervous system.

People with a history of trauma often develop behavioral health concerns including anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders. In addition, they may struggle in relationships and have difficulty obtaining meaningful employment. They can also be at risk for developing chronic medical conditions like cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, musculoskeletal and neurological problems.

These symptoms can be caused by a single event or repeated exposure to trauma over time. Those that have experienced repeated traumas are more likely to develop PTSD. People with PTSD are at greater risk for developing other types of mental health problems as well as behavioral health concerns like self-harm and high-risk behaviors that lead to incarceration or homelessness.