Youth Health Mental Health Crisis

Young people are at the forefront of a mental health crisis. Psychologists across the country are responding with innovative solutions.

Youth with mental health disorders often experience difficulties at home, school, and in their communities. These challenges can strain family relationships and lead to isolation. Some may even engage in high-risk behaviors, such as drug use or suicidal thoughts.


Many young people feel sad or moody sometimes and this can be a normal part of growing up. But if their feelings are lasting for weeks or months and interfere with everyday life, it could be depression. It is important to get help for this as it can have serious effects, including suicide.

Depression in adolescence is highly prevalent, with a 1 year prevalence rate exceeding 4% globally. It causes substantial present and future morbidity and is a major risk factor for suicide, which is the second-to-third leading cause of death in this age group.

Most treatments for depression have been developed in adults and are not always effective with adolescents. However, several studies of youth mental health have found that some specific types of talking therapy appear to be more effective than others – for example, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). This is often combined with antidepressant medication, especially fluoxetine.


Teens can feel anxiety from a variety of reasons. They are often under pressure to excel socially, academically and in extracurricular activities. They also live in a world that is often anxious, with mass shootings and political unrest.

While some anxiety is normal, it becomes a concern when it persists for weeks or months and interferes with daily life. Symptoms can include feeling irritable, keyed up or on edge; restlessness or being easily fatigued; difficulty concentrating or thinking straight; and a need for constant reassurance.

If you think your child may have anxiety, it’s a good idea to talk to their GP. Depending on the severity, they may refer them to a specialist children and young people mental health service (CYPMHS). There are a range of treatments available including psychotherapy and complementary health techniques.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

In kids with ADHD, hyperactivity is often a major symptom. They can’t sit still and constantly fidget or make noises. They may also be unable to follow directions or finish school work.

To be diagnosed with ADHD, your child’s provider must identify six or more symptoms and see that they significantly impair their functioning at home, school, work or social situations. Providers use standardized psychiatric assessments and questionnaires with rating scales to help them assess ADHD symptoms.

Medications can reduce the hyperactivity and impulsivity associated with ADHD. Two types of medication are available: central nervous system stimulants and nonstimulant medications. Behavior therapy helps kids learn healthier ways to manage their energy and develop self-control. It can also improve parent-child relationships and reduce negative behaviors and arguments.

Bipolar Disorder

Many people who have bipolar disorder experience alternating periods of high energy and agitation — known as mania — and low moods, or depression. Mood changes usually affect a person’s day-to-day functioning and can interfere with work, school and relationships. Symptoms typically appear before age 20 and can be present in both men and women.

During a manic episode, teens may seem very happy for no apparent reason, think and speak quickly, feel agitated or irritable and require little sleep. They might have delusions or false beliefs (hallucinations) or behave impulsively and dangerously.

Teens with bipolar disorder can benefit from treatment that includes medication to stabilize their moods and psychotherapy. Family-focused therapy gets the entire family involved in lowering stress and supporting good communication, while cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing negative patterns of thinking. Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, which helps a teen set regular sleep and activity schedules, has also been shown to help manage bipolar disorder.


Suicide can be prevented by addressing underlying issues such as depression and substance misuse. It can also be prevented by encouraging youths to get help if they are having suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide.

Many suicides in young people involve a combination of factors, including mental disorders, family history of suicide and specific personality characteristics. Risk factors can include traumatic life events such as abuse, death, divorce and conflict with significant family figures. Conflict and poor communication within families have been found to be related to youth suicides.

The rate of teen suicide has been rising since the 1980s and continues to be higher than rates in older age groups. Boys commit suicide at 3-4 times the rate of girls. This may be a result of more aggressive and impulsive behavior, but also due to differences in how they react to stressors and the availability of lethal means of suicide.