Mental Health in Adolescence

Adolescence is a time of normal mental health changes and sometimes struggles. However, many youth with a mental illness and their families have a difficult time receiving the services they need.

Support continued reductions in biases, discrimination and stigma around mental health in youth-serving communities. This includes communities of color, LGBTQ youth and those who are homeless.


Depression is common in adolescence and can lead to serious problems, including suicide.1 It affects both girls and boys and is associated with substance misuse and poor school performance.2 Depression can be difficult to recognise and is often missed unless there is a pronounced decline in a teen’s academic performance or they withdraw from friends.

Depression may be caused by a variety of factors, including family history and a traumatic event or life change. It’s also linked to a lack of support, social isolation and poor self-esteem.

Some teens with depression may need more intensive treatment, which might involve staying in a psychiatric hospital or attending a day program. Helping a young person to get the right kind of treatment can make them feel much better. Getting the right care can also prevent a problem from getting worse. If you think a friend or relative might be depressed, encourage them to see their doctor.


Anxiety is the body’s normal response to stress but can become a problem when it becomes constant and is overwhelming. It can affect physical health, emotional well-being and social skills development. Children and teenagers are at a particularly vulnerable stage of development and anxiety can have an impact on their lives. It can lead to depression, substance use and suicide in some cases.

Kids and teens who are anxious often have difficulty expressing their emotions, but there are many ways to help them cope with anxiety. They can talk to a mental health professional who may recommend therapy like CBT or medication.

Specialist CYPMHS (child and young people’s mental health services) may also be available to support your child with their anxiety. Find your local service on Youth Access. In some cases, medication is used to treat anxiety, but it is always recommended that this is done as part of a wider treatment plan. Long-term medication can actually increase your child’s anxiety symptoms, so it is important that they continue with therapy.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Children who show persistent difficulty sitting still, waiting for their turn or acting impulsively may be diagnosed with ADHD. Their symptoms must interfere with their school and home life to qualify for a diagnosis. Teachers often first notice these issues, but children must meet diagnostic criteria in order to receive treatment.

The most common form of the condition affects teens. Teens who struggle with these symptoms have trouble concentrating in school, forgetting tasks and getting distracted easily. They also have difficulty forming and maintaining social relationships.

The most commonly used medications are stimulants, such as dextroamphetamine and methylphenidate. Nonstimulants may be used if stimulants aren’t effective or cause side effects, including atomoxetine and guanfacine. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help a teen learn to regulate their emotions and behaviors. It can also teach them strategies for coping with their ADHD symptoms. This is a more long-term treatment option that helps them develop better self-control.


The teen years are a time of tremendous cognitive, mental and emotional change. This period of transition can be a time of great stress, anxiety and depression. This can be especially true if the youth has a family history of mental illness, substance abuse or traumatic events.

It’s also common for a young person to act out their strong feelings in destructive ways, which may result in suicide. This can include drug and alcohol use, impulsive, aggressive or dangerous behavior and over-stimulation from social media and video games. Family problems are also linked to suicide in many cases, not only direct conflict between a parent and child but also an environment of criticism or lack of communication.

In addition, sexual orientation and gender identity can be linked to a higher risk of suicide, particularly for people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. And racism and related discrimination can reduce the inner resources that a person uses to cope with life’s difficulties.