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Why Teen Mental Health Needs to be Addressed

“It’s not really ‘normal’ to talk about mental health with people. Being able to help everyone know about mental health and the real struggles that everyone is experiencing is important,” said Drew Voris, a recent graduate of Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Mo., and one of the students who nationally completed the teen Mental Health First Aid (tMHFA) pilot program. “Nobody says, ‘I can’t go to the party because I had a panic attack.’ They’ll make up an excuse. To be able to openly talk about being on antidepressants or dealing with anxiety, to have that awareness and to have that normal talk about mental health is really important.”

One in five teens lives with a mental health condition. Half of all mental illnesses begin by age 14 and 75 percent begin by the mid-20’s. That means more teens than we think in the United States are struggling with a mental health challenge right now and many don’t know what to do.

As neighbors, parents and teachers, we want to help teens around us who may be struggling in silence. We want to hold their hand, listen to their concerns and show them the resources that are available. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Research shows that most teenagers will turn to their friends and peers for support before they turn to an adult. And because of ongoing stigma around mental health disorders, many won’t even turn to their friends. Among teens with mental health needs, 70 percent do not receive the care they need.

That is why addressing teen mental health is critically important. We can’t always wait for teens to come to us for help; instead, we need to reach out and give them the information and resources they need to support each other. We need to help them learn about their own mental health and motivate them to participate in treatment.

teen Mental Health First Aid does just that. tMHFA teaches high school students about common mental health challenges and what they can do to support their own mental health and help their friends who are struggling. Teens are empowered to speak up, take action and get help when it’s needed the most from a trusted adult.

Right now, eight high schools across the country have trained students in teen Mental Health First Aid. We’re looking forward to expanding to more schools across the country in the coming years. Learn more about this new program, run by the National Council and supported by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.