Today is World Mental Health Day, and this year’s focus on adolescent mental health is timely. One in five teens and young adults lives with a mental health condition. Half of them develop the condition by age 14, but too often their problems go undetected and untreated. Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents and, in this country, suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth and young adults ages 10 to 34.
The developing brain is susceptible to both positive and negative influences, making adolescence a risky time of life. But just as mental disorders in young people are common, they preventable and treatable. The key is to understand the signs of distress in children and teens, engage youth in treatment and replicate best practices.
Parents are often the first to notice significant changes in behavior. Teens may eat or sleep more, have trouble concentrating or isolate from their friends. Because some young people may be uncomfortable discussing their struggles, it’s up to us to notice when they need help. That’s the impetus behind Mental Health First Aid’s “#SaidNoTeenEver” public service campaign.
Mental illnesses in teens and young adults can disrupt normal developmental milestones related to school, work and relationships. Early intervention programs like Mental Health First Aid can help teens and their families establish individualized treatment plans that address their life goals and help them stay on track.
Perhaps one of the most important things we can do for adolescents is to help them learn about their own mental health and activate their motivation to participate in treatment. Social media can play an important role. Though excessive social media use has been linked to increases in anxiety and depression among teens, positive messages like those in the Child Mind Institute’s #MyYoungerSelf campaign can help teens emerge with a more positive attitude about their potential and about asking for help. Evidence-based practices like motivational interviewing can help young people take a more active role in decisions concerning their care.
Ultimately, the common thread in working with adolescents is the need to create positive relationships among teens, their families, the providers and organizations that serve them and their communities. And all it takes is one person to reach out and extend a helping hand. That’s what Mental Health First Aid is all about.
Mental Health First Aid for Youth teaches people who interact with teens how to recognize the signs of a mental health or addiction crisis, initiate a conversation and connect young people to professional help and community resources. Everyone can #BetheDifference for someone who is struggling with a mental health or substance use problem if they know what to say and what to do.
Today the world is focused on raising awareness among adolescents and young adults of ways to look after their mental health and on helping peers, parents and teachers know how to support them. That’s the perfect time to find a Mental Health First Aid Course near you. Young people are the future of this country, and the future starts now!