Mental health is a serious issue that affects people of all ages. Often, mental health problems begin to manifest earlier in life, during your teens or young adulthood. According to the American Psychiatric Association, half of mental illnesses begin by the time someone is 14. They also note that three-quarters of mental illnesses appear by the age of 24. For these reasons, it’s important that people understand what mental illness is and how it can impact their lives and the lives of loved ones. Most importantly, however, you should know that help is available and you are not alone.
What Does it Mean to Have a Mental Health Problem?
A mental health problem is any condition that makes it difficult for a person to think, feel, behave, or function as they would normally. This difficulty may be long-lasting, or it may occur from time to time. Mental illnesses include conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and anxiety. Like with any other illness, it’s necessary to see a health provider who can diagnose the issue and help treat it.
If you notice any unusual or disturbing changes to your behavior or how you feel, it’s important to tell your parents or a trusted adult right away so you can get help. Symptoms that should cause concern include an inability to eat or sleep; a drastic decrease in energy; feelings of hopelessness, confusion, worry, or fear; frequent or sudden bouts of anger; or feeling on edge or like you can’t calm down. Some people who are experiencing mental health problems may find that they’ve lost interest in the things that they normally enjoy: They may no longer want to spend time with their friends, find it difficult to go to school or focus while in school, or fight constantly with family and friends. Some mental health issues can even cause people to hear voices or want to hurt themselves or others; if this happens to you, it’s crucial that you get help immediately.
The simplest way for many teens to get the help they need is to talk to their parents, but if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you could turn to another trusted adult such as a teacher, another family member, or a religious leader. You might also just call your doctor yourself. When you’re deciding who to talk to about your concerns, pick someone who is not judgmental, is a good listener, respects the need for privacy, and will take what is said seriously. This person should also be someone who you’re comfortable talking to and who gives good advice. If you’re not comfortable talking to someone you know about your problems, you can also talk to someone anonymously by calling a hotline or using another type of support service.
Online Resources for Adolescents and Young Adults
NAMI: Teens and Young Adults: The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains that a mental illness is not the victim’s fault and that resources are available to help.
Your Feelings: Teens suffering from mood swings and other problems can visit GirlsHealth.gov for helpful advice.
Minding Your Mind: Knowledge: Mental health issues aren’t restricted to problems like schizophrenia or suicidal thoughts. Minding Your Mind explains that up to one in four young people will have some kind of mental disorder and that treatment can help in four out of five cases.
For Young People Looking for Help: MentalHealth.gov explains that mental health issues can strike young people as well as adults. Visit their website for their definition of what constitutes a mental health problem.
Warning Signs of Suicide (PDF): This document talks about how to detect warning signs that someone might commit suicide.
Mental Health Resources for Teens: It takes courage for someone suffering from mental issues to seek help. Teen Vogue magazine explains that teenagers who have emotional or mental problems are not alone.
Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator: On this page, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a locator to help you find treatment options if you’re struggling with a mental illness or an addiction.
Teen Mental Health: Click this link to read more about teen mental health.
MindShift App: AnxietyBC offers an app on this page that can help those who suffer from anxiety.
Mood 24/7: Johns Hopkins University has developed a mood-tracking app that is available here. It also allows users to share the data with family, friends, and medical professionals.
ADAA-Reviewed Mental Health Apps: Click this link to learn about software that has been reviewed by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
The Rise of Digital Technology in Mental Health: Mental health problems cost Americans nearly $200 billion in lost earnings every year. Forbes explains how researchers have been using technology to help treat mental illnesses.
New Apps Give Teens Easier, Persistent Access to Mental Help: Visit this page to read about apps that can be used in the treatment of certain mental health problems.
Bipolar Medication Guide: Visit Helpguide.org for information about medication used to treat bipolar disorder. It gives tips for achieving the maximum benefit from medication and how to find the correct medicine to treat the problem.
A Guide to Psychotropic Medications for Youth in Foster Care (PDF): This document by ChildWelfare.gov concentrates on youth in the foster care system and includes information on recognizing when someone needs help.
Mental Health Medications: Medications are an important part of treating a number of mental issues.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Learn how medicine can help people who suffer from ADHD in this article.
Drugs to Treat Mental Illness: Read about medications that are commonly used to treat mental illnesses in this three-page article.
I’m Alive: People who feel like they have no place to turn can find help from I’m Alive. It is a chat-based service for people who are in a mental crisis.
Hotlines for Teens (PDF): Click this link to read a document that can help you find a hotline specific to your needs
NEDA: Contact the Helpline: The National Eating Disorders Association website offers information about the counseling they offer via their helpline.
Talk to Someone Now: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has both a phone number and an online chat option for those who are considering suicide.
Lifeline Crisis Chat: Visit the Contact USA website for information about their online and phone-based lifeline to help people who are suffering from suicidal thoughts.
Get Help Now: The Trevor Project offers suicide counseling over the phone, via online chat, and by text message.
Crisis Text Line: Find support by text message for free, 24/7.
Promoting Children’s Mental Health: People who visit this page by the American Academy of Pediatrics can read about their efforts to promote children’s mental health.
Youth Programs: Click this link to the Resilience Advocacy Project site to read about their youth programs, which include GO Girls, a health justice program that helps adolescent girls become advocates for mental health and other issues.
Advocacy Network: Click this link to read about Mental Health America’s Advocacy Network and how you can support their efforts.
AACAP Legislative Activities: This page by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry discusses their legislative activities, including advocacy efforts.
DBSA: Understanding Advocacy: Learn about the different definitions of advocacy and how the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance is advocating for those with mental illnesses.
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