Youth Health Mental Health

It is normal for teenagers to feel sad or down sometimes. But when these feelings happen often or last a long time, it could be a sign of a mental health problem.

Students in marginalized groups face more challenges in terms of their mental health and are at increased risk for psychiatric disorders.

Risk Factors

There are a number of factors that increase the chances of your child developing a mental health problem. These may include genetic, biological, psychological or cultural considerations. A family history of mental illness is also an important factor. Having a chronic illness or living in poverty can also put your child at risk for developing mental health problems.

Peer pressure and feelings of not fitting in can lead to depression and anxiety. Being a minority or having a sexual identity other than heterosexuality can also increase your child’s risk of poor mental health.

A person-centered approach called latent class analysis (LCA) helps to better understand how risk factors interact and relate to mental health outcomes. LCA identifies distinct subgroups within the population that have different combinations of risk exposure and their related adolescent psychopathology. These subgroups are characterized by different risk “profiles.” The largest class in this study, the basic-risk class, had a low profile of risk factors and was predominated by late adolescent girls.


While it is normal for teens to experience mood changes, when these change are extreme and occur frequently they may be a sign of mental health issues. Drastic and uncharacteristic shifts in behavior are common symptoms of anxiety disorders, which are the most prevalent in adolescents, and depression.

While everyone feels anxious or depressed from time to time, it becomes a mental illness when these feelings are constant and interfere with daily life. These conditions include depression, anxiety disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), eating disorders and some types of schizophrenia.

Adolescents with poor mental health are at higher risk for unhealthy behaviors like drug use, violence and sexual risky behaviors that can lead to HIV, STDs and unintended pregnancy. The same prevention strategies that support mental health also can help reduce these risks. Often, these disorders emerge in early adolescence and can be prevented by addressing them during this critical time in life.


There are a variety of treatments for mental health conditions in adolescents. These include talk therapy, medication, and group or individual support sessions.

Some youth may be at a higher risk of developing mental health problems than others. This includes those who live in humanitarian and fragile settings; have a chronic illness, autism spectrum disorder, or an intellectual disability; are pregnant, or are adolescent parents; and are from minority ethnic and sexual communities.

Preventing these risks can help to ensure that all youth have positive mental health. For example, programs that promote healthy relationships and connectedness to family, school, and community can reduce adolescent depression, drug use, and other unhealthy behaviors.


Preventive strategies addressing early life risk factors and promoting youth mental health can reduce the likelihood of developing a mental disorder in childhood. This is particularly important because almost all mental disorders start during childhood and adolescence, accounting for 45% of the burden of disease worldwide.

Youth can take control of their mental health by developing strong relationships with peers and supportive adults, learning techniques to manage emotions, practicing healthy use of social media and technology, and knowing when to seek help. Adults can also play a role by being positive role models, taking care of their own mental health and well-being, encouraging youth to practice safe sleep and nutrition, and modeling respectful behavior toward all.

The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened the importance of youth mental health, but many young people have been struggling with depression and other mental illnesses long before that. WHO is working to develop and promote strategies, programs, and tools that can improve the mental health of adolescents and their families.