According to Teen Mental Health1, 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness. Teenagers and young adults experience many physical, mental, and emotional changes, and it’s during this time that the onset of mental health disorders can occur. By age 24, it’s estimated that three-quarters of all substance abuse and mental health disorders can be identified.1
The stigma associated with mental illness is not as prevalent as it once was, but it does still exist. In all discussions about mental health, it is incredibly important to remember that mental illnesses are disorders of brain function — they are diseases just like diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis. Having a mental illness is not a choice, nor is it some sort of moral failing.
As with all illnesses, early diagnosis and intervention is important, so it’s critical to watch for signs and symptoms of mental illness in young people in order to get them the help they need as quickly as possible. Gaining the tools and knowledge needed to cope with their illness sets up young people for a much healthier and engaged life in the long run.
Young people are prone to mood swings and irritability — that’s perfectly normal — so it can sometimes be challenging to identify whether those bad moods and down days are ordinary growing pains or an emerging mental health disorder.
If you or a young person you care about is experiencing the following symptoms, it’s worth exploring the cause by talking to a doctor2:
- Bad moods or grumpiness that persists for more than a few days
- Becoming socially withdrawn
- Continual anger, irritability, or depression
- Dramatic changes in appetite or sudden weight loss or gain
Anxiety disorders, depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and eating disorders are among the most common mental health issues affecting young people3:
- Feelings of excessive uneasiness, worry and fear
- Depressed mood that affects thoughts, feelings and daily activities including eating, sleeping and working
- Continued inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with daily functioning or development
- Extreme and abnormal eating behavior such as insufficient or excessive eating
Remember, it’s okay to not be okay. There is absolutely no shame in having a disease. Reaching out for help is all it takes to start the healing process, and help is out there. We often wait until we’re on the brink of disaster to ask for help (or to encourage someone else to seek it if we see troubling behavior in them), but even when you feel slightly off, it makes sense to check in with a mental health professional.
There is no need to suffer.
If you, or someone you love, is in immediate danger due to a mental health crisis call 911 or visit:
- In Canada: https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/
- In the US: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
- In the UK: https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/nhs-services/mental-health-services/dealing-with-a-mental-health-crisis-or-emergency/
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