Teens in Crisis

A teenager’s crisis can be anything from self-harm to recurring thoughts of suicide. A no-obligation assessment can help identify the root cause and get them the care they need quickly.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, depression, anxiety and suicide rates for youth were on the rise. These trends have been accelerated by societal and political issues like global warming, inequality, systemic racism and gun violence.


Across the nation, teenage suicides and self-harm have risen in recent years. These alarming statistics have provoked a frenzy of armchair social-media theorizing. But many of these theories shed more light on their proponents’ hobbyhorses than adolescents’ mental health problems.

Depression in young people manifests as sadness, irritability and a loss of interest in activities that usually bring enjoyment. Other symptoms include a change in appetite, insomnia and trouble concentrating. In severe cases, depression may be accompanied by a feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness.

Often, troubled teens are seen in emergency departments, where doctors are not trained to assess mental health problems in children and teenagers. More resources are needed for schools to help students develop emotional coping skills, and telephone hotlines that offer parents and physicians advice on how to deal with children and teenagers in crisis should be available throughout the country. Currently, only 19 states have them. These services are particularly important for Black, Indigenous and multiracial LGBTQ teens, who are at higher risk of attempting suicide.


Teens suffering from anxiety may have symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, excessive worrying or shyness. These symptoms can also lead to difficulty in sleeping and even physical problems such as headaches or digestive issues.

Teenagers may find it difficult to express their feelings about being anxious, leading them to blame themselves for their symptoms. This can cause them to become isolated and withdrawn. They may also struggle to form close relationships with friends or family.

It’s important for parents to listen to their teenager and validate their feelings without judgement. They can do this by listening with their undivided attention, making eye contact and nodding. They can also help teens to manage their anxiety by encouraging them to get involved in activities such as community service or volunteering. They can also seek support through a phone line such as Lifeline on 13 11 14 or SANE Help Centre on 1800 18 7263.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is a major problem that impacts the mental health of adolescents and can have many other negative consequences for them. For example, it may lead to problems at work, missing school classes and being involved with the juvenile justice system. It can also cause money issues due to spending money on drugs, and it can create family conflicts.

Teens often start using substances to try new things and experience sensation-seeking. Other reasons include peer pressure, a desire to fit in with their peers and self-medication to cope with trauma and/or mood disorders (e.g., ADHD).

CHOC offers various types of substance abuse treatment for youth in crisis, including family-based approaches like Multisystemic Therapy (MST) that offer services to caretakers as well as the young person. Other types of treatment are intensive outpatient programs that involve meeting two to five days a week for talk therapy and other services. Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are often used to treat addiction to these substances.


Adolescence is a time of intense mental, emotional and social change. During this time, youth often experience depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. Some may even consider suicide as a way to cope with these problems.

Teens who commit suicide usually do so impulsively, as a response to acute psychosocial stressors. They may be unable to cope with feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. They may be unable to express their feelings to family or friends, leading to isolation and loneliness.

Many teens who commit suicide have a history of substance abuse, as well as emotional and physical abuse in the family. Poor communication between family members also seems to be a factor in many cases of suicide among young people. Teens who attempt suicide often feel they have no other options and that their lives are meaningless. Some believe they are a burden to others. Other common reasons for suicide attempts are that they want to escape from a hard life or get relief from painful thoughts or feelings.