Adolescent Mental Health

Mental health is an important part of overall health for children as well as adults. For many adults who have mental disorders, symptoms were present—but often not recognized or addressed—in childhood and youth. For a young person with symptoms of a mental disorder, the earlier treatment is started, the more effective it can be. Early treatment can help prevent more severe, lasting problems as a child grows up.

Warning Signs

It can be tough to tell if troubling behavior in a child is just part of growing up or a problem that should be discussed with a health professional. But if there are signs and symptoms that last weeks or months; and if these issues interfere with the child’s daily life, not only at home but at school and with friends, you should contact a health professional.

Your child or teen might need help if he or she:

  • Often feels anxious or worried
  • Has very frequent tantrums or is intensely irritable much of the time
  • Has frequent stomachaches or headaches with no physical explanation
  • Is in constant motion, can’t sit quietly for any length of time
  • Has trouble sleeping, including frequent nightmares
  • Loses interest in things he or she used to enjoy
  • Avoids spending time with friends
  • Has trouble doing well in school, or grades decline
  • Fears gaining weight; exercises, diets obsessively
  • Has low or no energy
  • Has spells of intense, inexhaustible activity
  • Harms herself/himself, such as cutting or burning her/his skin
  • Engages in risky, destructive behavior
  • Harms self or others
  • Smokes, drinks, or uses drugs
  • Has thoughts of suicide
  • Thinks his or her mind is controlled or out of control, hears voices

Mental illnesses can be treated. If you are a child or teen, talk to your parents, school counselor, or health care provider. If you are a parent and need help starting a conversation with your child or teen about mental health, visit http://www.mentalhealth.gov/. If you are unsure where to go for help, ask your pediatrician or family doctor or visit NIMH’s Help for Mental Illnesses webpage.

It may be helpful for children and teens to save several emergency numbers to their cell phones.The ability to get immediate help for themselves or for a friend can make a difference.

  • The phone number for a trusted friend or relative
  • The non-emergency number for the local police department
  • The Crisis Text Line: 741741
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

If you or your child is thinking about harming yourself get help immediately. You can call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

SOURCE: The National Institute of Mental Health Information Resource Center