Mental Health in Adolescence

Adolescence is a time when mental health problems tend to emerge, particularly anxiety and depression. These problems are often rooted in societal conditions that need to be addressed.

POLITICO surveyed more than 1,400 clinicians who treat youth to understand what’s fueling the national youth mental health crisis. Below are some of their insights.


Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in adolescents and young adults. It affects mood, and can lead to thoughts of hopelessness and suicide.

Adolescents need to feel that they are not alone, and their parents, teachers, peers and other caring adults can play a vital role in supporting them. If you are concerned that a teenager or young person may be depressed, talk to them; help them access services; be with them at appointments if they want it; and offer extra love and support.

Despite the challenges, adolescents and young people can recover from depression. The earlier effective treatment is started, the better their chances of a full recovery. Some of the most important steps include psychoeducation, lifestyle management and a combination of therapy and medication. Treatments include talking therapies such as CBT, and for some teens and young people, a multimodal approach that includes community support groups is also helpful.


Anxiety is a normal reaction to stressful situations. But if anxiety is persistent and out of proportion to the situation, interferes with your daily life or causes physical symptoms (like a fast or racing heartbeat), it can be a sign of a mental health disorder.

Some common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, phobias and panic disorder. Other mental health conditions that often co-occur with anxiety are depression and substance use disorders.

The best way to treat anxiety is to get help early, before it gets out of control. Some people find it helpful to try psychotherapy (also known as talk therapy) such as cognitive behavioral therapy, which teaches them how to change negative or worrisome thoughts into more positive ones. Others find that a supportive community can help reduce anxiety. This could mean finding a group of friends to talk with in person, on the phone or online. It could also mean joining a self-help or support group.


As cutting and self-injury tend to be very taboo subjects, it can be easy for people to have serious misunderstandings about why their friend or family member hurts themselves. They may think that the person is crazy or dangerous, when in reality, the person just needs help and support.

Self-injury is a symptom of emotional pain and should be taken seriously. It isn’t a suicide attempt or a cry for attention and it can be overcome.

Talking to someone can really help, but it’s important that the person is ready and willing to talk about what’s going on with them. There are also lots of charities and support groups that can offer advice and guidance.

It is also worth thinking about alternative ways to distract yourself when you feel the urge to cut or harm yourself. For example, rubbing ice cubes on your hands or wearing a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it when you feel triggered.


Teenagers need a lot of support from the people who care about them. This is especially true during the years of adolescence, when they experience many changes and transitions at once in several different areas of life. These stresses can be especially challenging for teenagers with mental health challenges.

It’s important to help a teenager who is at risk for suicide find the professional help they need, even if they don’t want to go or say they feel better. Suicidal feelings tend to come and go, so it’s important for young people to know that they can seek help whenever they need it.

Getting the help they need can be as simple as talking to someone they trust, like their family doctor or a school counselor. Then, they can rely on those professionals to give them the tools to manage their depression and other problems. This will improve their quality of life and increase the chances of a long, happy and fulfilling adulthood.