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Teens Help Their Peers Stay Healthy During Teen Health Week

Teen Health Week has gone global. Begun in Pennsylvania in 2016, the annual celebration of adolescent health and mental health now includes more than 27 states and 36 countries. This year – from March 18 to 24 – teens, teachers and physicians worldwide are wearing lime green and sharing social media posts with the hashtag #2018TeenHealth to show their support for the world’s billion adolescents.

Each day of Global Teen Health Week focuses on a specific theme, including mental health and substance use and abuse. Toolkits created by the program’s founders include data which reveal a teen population that is hurting.

  1. One in five teens and young adults lives with a mental health condition. Half of them develop the condition by age 14 and three-quarters by age 24.
  2. 70 percent of youth in U.S. juvenile justice facilities have at least one mental health condition, and at least 20 percent have a serious mental illness.
  3. Teenagers with mental disorders are more likely to drop out of school, be arrested, experience homelessness and be underemployed.
  4. In the U.S., more than 1 million adolescents ages 12 to 17 had a substance use disorder in 2014.

Moreover, recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that teen suicide is soaring. From 2006 to 2016, suicide rates increased for white children and teens ages 10 to 17 by 70 percent and for black children and teens by 77 percent. Teens and experts cited lack of access to mental health screening and services and resistance, especially among young men and people of color, to admit they have a problem and seek help. Poverty, family dysfunction and the impulsivity of adolescence also play a role.

But Jayne O’Donnell sees reason for hope. She co-founded the Urban Health Media Project to help train high school students in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore to report on health and social issues in their communities.

The good news, O’Donnell says, is that teens are “speaking up, speaking out and making a difference.” She sees “great promise in their willingness to be open about their challenges. It’s when we know we aren’t alone that we make it possible to get help – and in turn to help others,” O’Donnell says.

Everyone can #BetheDifference for someone who is experiencing a mental health or substance use problem if they know what to say and what to do. Adolescents face rapid physical and emotional growth and may be especially prone to experiencing thoughts and feelings they are embarrassed to share with others. But those trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid can help. They learn how to spot the warning signs of a mental health or substance use crisis, safely engage someone in conversation and refer them to professional help, if needed.

Help celebrate Global Teen Health Week by being trained in Mental Health First Aid. Find a course near you today.

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