Mental Health of Youth

Adolescence is a unique and formative time. 

Physical, emotional and social changes, including exposure to poverty, abuse, or violence, can make adolescents vulnerable to mental health problems. 

Protecting adolescents from adversity, promoting socio-emotional learning and psychological well-being, and ensuring access to mental health care are critical for their health and well-being during adolescence and adulthood.

Globally, it is estimated that 1 in 7 (14%) 10–19-year-olds experience mental health conditions, yet these remain largely unrecognized and untreated.

Adolescents with mental health conditions are particularly vulnerable to social exclusion, discrimination, stigma (affecting readiness to seek help), educational difficulties, risk-taking behaviors, physical ill-health and human rights violations.

Adolescence is a crucial period for developing social and emotional habits important for mental well-being. 

These include adopting healthy sleep patterns; exercising regularly; developing coping, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills; and learning to manage emotions. 

Protective and supportive environments in the family, at school and in the wider community are important.

Factors that include youth mental health

Multiple factors affect mental health. 

The more risk factors adolescents are exposed to, the greater the potential impact on their mental health. 

Factors that can contribute to stress during adolescence include exposure to adversity, pressure to conform with peers and exploration of identity. 

Media influence and gender norms can exacerbate the disparity between an adolescent’s lived reality and their perceptions or aspirations for the future. 

Other important determinants include the quality of their home life and relationships with peers. 

Violence (especially sexual violence and bullying), harsh parenting and severe and socioeconomic problems are recognized risks to mental health.

Some adolescents are at greater risk of mental health conditions due to their living conditions, stigma, discrimination or exclusion, or lack of access to quality support and services. 

These include adolescents living in humanitarian and fragile settings; adolescents with chronic illness, autism spectrum disorder, an intellectual disability or other neurological condition; pregnant adolescents, adolescent parents, or those in early or forced marriages; orphans; and adolescents from minority ethnic or sexual backgrounds or other discriminated groups.

Whether you and your teen are getting along well or having challenges, it is important to show that you love and support them, that you can help them navigate tough times and that you are always there for them.

Here are four things to keep in mind when having that ‘how-are-you-doing?’ conversation with your teen and to show that you are always there for them.

  • Look for ways to check in with your teen. 

  • Ask them how their day has been and what they have been doing. 

  • It could be by inviting them to join you in a task, such as preparing dinner, so you can use the time to chat about their day.

  • Remind them that you are there for them, no matter what, and that you want to hear how they are feeling and what they are thinking. 

  • A few simple words of encouragement can help them feel comfortable sharing their feelings with you.

  • It is important to acknowledge and understand emotions they might be experiencing, even if it feels uncomfortable. 

  • When they open up to you, you can respond with “I understand”, “it sounds like a difficult situation” or “that makes sense”.

  • It can be easy to notice the things your teen is doing that you do not like. 

  • But also try to notice and praise them for something they are doing well — even something simple like cleaning up after themselves.

  • Work together on setting up new routines and achievable daily goals. 

  • You could fit in home chores around school work or set a target like getting homework done before dinner.

  • Adolescence means independence! Try to give your teen the appropriate time and space to be on their own. Needing space is a normal part of growing up.

  • Find a few ways you can support and encourage your teen to take breaks (from schoolwork, housework, or other activities they may be working on) to do things they enjoy. 

  • If your teen feels frustrated, work with them to brainstorm some solutions to problems. Try not to take over and tell them what to do.
  • Listen to your teen’s views and try to sort out conflict calmly. Remember: everyone gets stressed!
  • Never discuss an issue while you are angry. Walk away, take a breath and calm down — you can talk with your teen about it later.
  • Avoid power struggles. 
  • With the world feeling unpredictable and options looking limited right now, teens might be struggling to be in control. 
  • As difficult as it can be in the moment, empathize with their desire to assert control in a scary time, rather than attempting to fight back or overpower it.
  • Be honest and transparent with your teen: you can let them know that you are experiencing extra stress as well. 
  • Showing them how you deal with your own difficult feelings can help them know their feelings are okay.
  • When there is conflict, take some time to reflect on how you and your teen can resolve it. 
  • You can discuss these reflections with your teen, so they see how you are processing ideas.

Caregivers have a lot to deal with. You also need care and support for yourself. 

Showing self-care is also a good way of modelling the practice to your teen.

  • Don’t wait to ask others for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. 
  • It is normal and okay to feel this way. 
  • Find a family member or someone you can talk to.
  • Make time for your own relationships. Try to find a few people that you can share feelings and experiences with. 
  • Set aside some time with them each day, to check in on how you are feeling.
  • Make time in your day to do the things that help you cope with and manage stress. 
  • Whether your day is busy or slow, we know that making time to look after yourself is essential for your wellbeing. 
  • Doing the things you like or simply taking a few minutes off from your day can help you feel relaxed and re-energized.
  • Try different positive coping strategies that work for you. 
  • Some ideas include: exercising, talking with friends, making to-do lists or planning ahead, maintaining routines and structures, reflecting on what you are grateful for or proud of, and doing things you enjoy like music, art, dancing and keeping a journal.

Are you worried about your young one? Speak with us for a holistic support!