Mental Illnesses in Teens and Young Adults: What They Are and How You Can Help

By Andy June

Awareness of mental illnesses in teens and young adults is rising, but is it really being taken to heart? Most common mental illnesses in teen and young adults are anxiety, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD (which can often pairs with depression and anxiety) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD, and eating disorders. Although these mental illnesses should be taken seriously, the people affected are not getting the help they need. Mental illness is a health condition that changes someone’s actions, thinking, behavior and feelings.

In today’s day and age, depression and anxiety being pushed up to the media with so much attention being drawn to it, some may not take others who have mental illnesses seriously, especially teens. Teens are faced with the struggle and stress of school and the anxiety of the workload, and feel as though they may need help. However, they are not taken seriously and are told they are only a teenager and are simply stressed with school. For example, bullying is a big issue that can cause students to feel useless, have depressing thoughts and feel excluded from the social norms. These feelings could be bottling up, causing them to spiral. Past trauma can also be a cause of depression and anxiety. Past trauma can be a big part of someone’s life and it is something that a person looks back on to use against themselves, seeing where they went wrong. Past traumas can haunt a person a lot in a person’s life, and can interfere with there real life.

Science can also be a simple cause of a person’s mental health. Science, despite popular belief, is what is behind these mental illnesses. It’s not always what’s happening in someone’s life or a past trauma that can also be altered by past experiences. Most simply put, mental illnesses are chemical imbalances in the brain.  For example, depression has to do with the hippocampus. The hippocampus located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain, is responsible for the brain’s memories and emotions. People with depression have smaller ones. The longer a person is depressed the smaller it gets, limiting its ability to put off the correct emotions. With medication the growth is being stimulated, causing new neurons to form, making patients with depression happier. Being a medical disease, depression is inheritable from family. The serotonin transmitter gene is what is responsible for this. The smaller the serotonin transmitter gene, the larger the chance of someone inheriting depression, especially if there are traumatic events or life stress to stem it.


-Teens and young adults ages 14-19 are most common with mental illnesses.

-30 % of women will experience an anxiety disorder while only 19% of men will.

-1 in 5 adults in the U.S. every year will experience mental illness an equivalent of 43.8 million people, or 18.5%

-20% of teen 13-18 ;ive with a mental illness

-8% of youth has an anxiety disorder

-50% of lifetime classes begin by 14, and 75% by 24

-Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death in ages 10-24

-Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S

-Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide

-LGBTQ are 2 or more times more likely to have a mental condition than cisgender straight individuals

-11% of transgender individuals have reported being denied help by mental health clinics

-LGBTQ youth are 2-3 times more likely to attempt suicide than cisgender straight youth

Problems with getting help needed in multicultural communities may include:

  • less access to treatment, in areas they may live in
  • language barrier
  • racism, homophobia, transphobia, an discrimination

Warning signs:

  • Attempt to harm or kill themselves, or plans to do so
  • Felling withdram, sad, unmotivated, fatigued for two or more weeks
  • Taking risks that could harm oneself or others
  • Overwhelming fear for no reason
  • Not eating, using laxatives, or throwing up to lose weight, or significant weight loss or gain for no reason
  • Random severe mood swings, especially interfering or causing problems in relationships
  • Abnormal use of drugs or alcohol
  • Large or drastic change in sleeping habits or behaviors
  • Difficulting concentrating in school, or drastic grade changes
  • Intensifying fears that get in the way with socializing and other daily behaviors

What parents can do:

  • Talk with your child’s doctor
  • Get a referral to a mental health specialist
  • Talk to the school
  • Talk to your child

What you can do for yourself:

  • Talk to your doctor
  • Get a referral to a mental health specialist
  • Learn more on mental illnesses
  • Talk to close friends or family

If you see any of these signs consistent in friends and family member, please talk to them to get them the help they may need.

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