Despite the positive effects of adolescence, adolescents are at risk for mental health conditions. They may experience stress, depression, anxiety, self-harm or suicidal thoughts.
Adolescents also face social and academic challenges. They are at increased risk for substance abuse, violence, sexual assault and teen pregnancy.
1. Adolescence is a time of growth and development.
Adolescence is a time of rapid change in the brain and body. It’s also a time when people are learning independence, developing social skills and learning behaviors that will last them their entire lives.
The adolescent period is known for frequent life changes that involve home, school, work and personal identity. It is during this time that males and females begin gaining a sense of self and accepting their physical appearance.
During this time, adolescents also develop fine motor skills. They increase their coordination of small movements of their hands, which may include juggling, cooking, playing a musical instrument and other activities.
This is a critical stage of development in which young people develop their sense of self, learn specific social skills and form positive relationships. Parents and other caring adults play an important role in helping youth thrive during this period. They can set examples of healthy relationships and support young people as they navigate their changing world.
2. Adolescents are at risk for mental health conditions.
The mental health of adolescents has a significant impact on their physical and social well-being. It can result in a number of health conditions, including suicide and substance use disorders.
Adolescents of any age, sex, background or ethnicity can develop a behavioral health disorder. These disorders can include depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance abuse.
Unusual behavior, such as anger or irritability, withdrawn from friends and family, or changes in sleeping habits, should be considered a red flag for possible mental illness. If these behaviors are causing problems with study, work or relationships with others, seek help immediately.
Suicide ideation is also a significant indicator of mental illness. If a teen exhibits thoughts of suicide, he/she should be referred for mental health care evaluation and treatment.
3. Adolescents are at risk for suicide.
Adolescents often experience stress that can be hard to deal with, especially if they’ve gone through a recent loss. This can include a death of a loved one, a relationship breakup, or the loss of a pet.
Depression and suicidal feelings can be treatable, but if your child or teen talks about suicide or feels hopeless, it’s important to get them help right away. Also, if they have access to means of suicide (like guns or pills), it’s critical that they don’t do it.
Mental health problems like depression and anxiety, substance abuse (especially alcohol and drugs), and a history of previous suicide attempts are all risk factors. Other things that may increase your teen’s risk are bullying, being in an environment where they’re not accepted for who they are, and having a family history of suicide.
4. Adolescents are at risk for substance abuse.
Adolescents who smoke, drink alcohol, or use other drugs are at increased risk for developing mental health problems. Additionally, adolescent drug use is often preceded by physical or sexual abuse.
A recent study analyzed data from the National Comorbidity Survey-Adolescent Supplement, which included 10,123 adolescents. The researchers found that 37.7% of adolescents with a mental disorder had at least one substance use problem by age 18, 47.6% were regular alcohol users, and 66.8% were illicit drug abusers by age 18.
Research shows that adolescents who have a preexisting mental disorder are more likely to start using alcohol and other drugs in early adolescence. They are also more likely to use multiple substances, and report more reasons for their substance abuse, such as to cope with emotional distress. They also have higher rates of PTSD, which may be caused by trauma such as abuse or sexual violence. Studies show that prevention and treatment programs that promote healthy adolescent development are associated with successful recovery from substance abuse.