Youth Health Mental Health Issues

Youth mental health issues are a growing concern among clinicians. Clinicians report seeing an increase in anxiety and depression in their youngest patients.

Some of these issues may have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. But many factors have long been in play.

Some teens say they’re becoming more resilient since the pandemic. Others are finding support and help.


Depression can lead to low self-esteem and problems in school or with relationships. If you suspect your teen is depressed, try to open up to them or turn to another trusted source. Some teenagers are reluctant to discuss their feelings, but they may be open to talking to a school counselor, favorite teacher or mental health professional.

A person’s mental health goes hand-in-hand with many other issues like drug use, violence and risky sexual behaviors that can cause HIV/AIDS or unintended pregnancy. These issues often begin during adolescence.

Adolescents with depression are at a greater risk of dropping out of school and experiencing a variety of other negative life events. They also tend to be at a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and actions.


Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues in youth. But despite the high numbers, only about 1 in 5 children and teens with anxiety get the treatment they need. This is because of a combination of factors, including long waiting lists to see psychologists and a shortage of trained providers. Teens with untreated anxiety disorders are at greater risk of depression, behaviour problems and substance use in later life.

GPs can screen teens for anxiety using semi-structured interviews that ask questions about the child’s mood and family dynamics, as well as patient self-report measures and parent/teacher reports. They can also refer them to their local children and young people’s mental health services (CYPMHS), who can offer counselling.

Teens with anxiety disorders can develop them for a variety of reasons, from trauma and stress to underlying health conditions like PTSD or asthma. They can also be at higher risk for anxiety because of family and peer pressures, or for having a low self-esteem and a lack of safe spaces to connect with others online.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects 4% of American adults. It’s also common among teens. Kids with ADHD have trouble paying attention and controlling their actions, and they often act without thinking about the consequences. They may get into frequent trouble at school or home, and they may make decisions that put them at risk for harm.

There’s no known cause of ADHD, but genes and environmental factors may play a role. Research suggests that brain chemicals are out of balance in people with ADHD, and that this is caused by problems with the frontal lobes of the brain.

Health care professionals use a number of tools and scales to diagnose ADHD, including questionnaires from teachers and caregivers and ratings of symptoms by the patient. They may also ask about the patient’s history of learning disorders, mood disorders and other health issues. They’ll also do a physical exam. Medications may help with the symptoms of ADHD. Examples include stimulants like dexmethylphenphenidate (Focalin, Focalin XR), dextroamphetamine (Adderall, Adderall XR) and lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse).


Suicide is a major cause of death among adolescents and young adults. It ranks second behind homicides as the leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year-olds.1

Certain groups are at higher risk of suicide than others, including those who have a history of depression or other mental health conditions such as eating disorders, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. They also include those who are military veterans, people living in rural areas, and those who work in dangerous jobs like mining or construction.

A person who has thoughts of killing themselves or is planning suicide needs to be evaluated right away by a trained mental health professional. This may happen in the emergency department (ED) or a primary care medical home. Adolescents and young adults need to be screened for suicide during their regular health supervision visits and when they have concerns about mood or behavior. Health professionals can use the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale,9 which includes a screening and risk assessment component for suicide.