Poor mental health in youth can affect their school and work performance, relationships and decision making. They often feel isolated and hopeless, and suicide remains the second leading cause of death among 10-19 year olds.
Psychologists are working to help address this crisis, including promoting mental wellness, destigmatizing treatment and improving access to care.
Stress and Anxiety
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc across New York, young people are experiencing a sharp rise in anxiety and depression. The Surgeon General has sounded the alarm about this mental health crisis and psychologists across the country are working to find solutions.
Stress and anxiety share many symptoms, including uneasiness, headaches, high blood pressure and lack of sleep, but the root causes are very different. Stress usually has a specific trigger, like a challenging exam or family concerns. Once the trigger is removed, stress tends to ease.
A good way to manage stress is to take a Mental Health First Aid course in your area. These online resources and printable one-page reference sheets can also help young people connect with support. They include online communities, peer networks, helplines and treatment locators.
Feeling sad or moody sometimes is part of a normal adolescent experience, especially when facing stressors such as relationship conflict, exams, fighting with siblings or family members, or moving house. However, if feelings of sadness are persistent or interfere with daily functioning, they may be an indicator of depression, a serious illness.
Teen depression can affect a person in many different ways and is not something they can “snap out of.” When untreated, it can lead to problems like drug use, violence, higher risk sexual behavior that can result in unintended pregnancy or HIV infection.
It’s important to support a young person who is depressed and encourage them to talk to someone they trust, such as their parent, school counsellor or friend. It’s also helpful to help them find a mental health professional with advanced training and a strong background in treating teens.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Symptoms of ADHD may make it hard for people to learn and to develop close relationships. They can also interfere with daily activities at home, school and work.
Treatment options include medications, cognitive behavioral therapy and education or training. Medications can help reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity. People with ADHD often need to try several different medications and dosages before finding one that works for them.
Doctors diagnose ADHD based on the presence of specific symptoms that started before a person was 12 years old and have been persistently present over at least six months. The doctor will also consider the extent to which the symptoms significantly affect the person’s life at home and at school. The condition was formerly called attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD). Boys and children assigned male at birth are more likely to be diagnosed with ADD than girls and children assigned female at birth.
Many adolescents experience poor mental health. This can be due to being exposed to risk behaviors like drug use, violence and higher-risk sexual behaviors that can lead to unintended pregnancy and HIV infection. It can also be the result of a lack of supportive relationships and adversity, like living in humanitarian or fragile settings; having a chronic illness or disability; being pregnant or a parent; or being from minority ethnic and/or sexual groups that are discriminated against.
These factors make it especially challenging for some youth to receive help, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important to know that mental health problems often go hand-in-hand with other behavioral risks, and that prevention strategies that support good mental health (like helping kids feel connected to school and family) also reduce those risks.
During adolescence, suicide is often linked to mental disorders, such as depression or substance use disorder. It can also be triggered by events like the breakup of a relationship, academic failures or financial challenges. It can also be a reaction to chronic physical illness or pain.
Suicide can be prevented. People who have thoughts of suicide should talk to a doctor right away. They should not try to cope with the problem alone, as this may worsen their condition.
Some people who die by suicide are trying to escape feelings of rejection, loss or victimization. Others may feel they are a burden to their friends or family. Others may be suffering from an undiagnosed or untreated mental health condition. Talking to a therapist can help.