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Youth Mental Health

It is normal for teens and young adults to experience various types of emotional distress as they develop and mature.  It is common to experience anxiety about school, or feel down for short periods of time.  When symptoms persist, it may be time to reach out for help. Please utilize this information and remember we are just a phone call or text away.  Our professionally trained and caring staff is available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 211 or 1-800-273-8255, or by texting icare to 898211.

Signs of Mental Illness in Teens

Teens who suffer from mental illness often show signs that may be different than an adult. These signs of mental illness in teens vary and can be emotional or, in some instances, physical. When a person exhibits these signs, it is not a confirmation that they have a mental illness but that further investigation is necessary. Some of the more physical symptoms may include headaches, stomach aches, or other unexplained aches and pains. More common symptoms include teens having difficulty maintaining grades, paying attention, concentrating, or remembering in general.

The teen may display a dramatic shift in behavior and feelings. There may be a loss of interest in favored activities and extreme feelings of sadness, fear, hopelessness, guilt, anxiety, and anger. They may stop caring about personal hygiene or their appearance. Suspicion of others may increase, and the teen may begin to withdraw from friends and family. A heightened sensitivity to sounds and sights, changes in sleeping and eating habits, as well as self-medicating are also warning signs that a teen may be suffering from mental illness. Lastly, one of the most important signs to look out for are words or behaviors that indicate suicidal thoughts.

Mental illness can be treated.  If you are a teen, talk to your parents, school counselor, or a health care provider.  If you are a parent and need help starting a conversation with your teen about mental health, visit  If you are unsure where to go for help, call 211 for additional support. 

If you are a young person, or the parent of a teen who may be struggling with mental health issues, here are some tips to work towards improved mental well being.

Get plenty of sleep

Getting enough good quality sleep is important for mental health. According to US News, research has found a clear link between sleep deprivation and teenage depression and anxiety. In a study of nearly 28,000 high school students, scientists found that each hour of lost sleep was associated with a 38 percent increase in the risk of feeling sad or hopeless, and a 58 percent increase in suicide attempts. Another study found that high school seniors were three times more likely to have strong depression symptoms if they had excessive daytime sleepiness.

Young people aged 14-17 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night but it’s common to not get enough because of pressures from school, social life and use of electronic devices.

To promote better sleep, try setting a bedtime and evening routine, turn off all electronic devices at least half an hour before going to sleep, limit caffeine after midday and try to get some exercise during the day.

Build Healthy Relationships with Others

Spending time with friends and family is a vital part of mental well being. No matter how busy you may be with school, make sure you take the time to be with people who lift your mood.

Relationship breakups can also be a trigger for negative feelings and depression, but these feelings should improve over time. It’s important to seek the support of others during this time and avoid using drugs or alcohol to deal with the pain.

Eat a Healthy Diet

The food you eat can impact your mental as well as physical health. Diets high in sugar and fat are linked with emotional and behavioral problems in young people and a bad diet may affect mood, concentration and mental health.

Adolescence is also a peak time for developing eating disorders. Maintaining a healthy relationship with food is vital not only to reduce the risk of developing eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia, but also to avoid obesity, which may lead to low self-esteem, depression and other emotional issues.

Learn to Relax

Slowing down and taking a mental break from worries relating to school, home, and relationships can help you to deal with stress more easily and manage your feeling.

Deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, creative visualization and yoga, are all effective relaxation exercises which are quick and simple to learn.

Relaxing can also be as simple as taking a warm bath, spending some time outdoors in nature, listing to some calming music or reading a good book with a cup of tea.

Avoid Alcohol and Other Drugs

Alcohol and other drugs can improve your mood in the short term, but they are likely to make you feel much worse in the long run, particularly if you are already battling with mental health issues.

If you feel anxious or depressed before drinking, the alcohol is likely to make it worse. Turning to drugs and alcohol as an attempt to self-medicate for depression, anxiety and other issues can also lead to problems with alcohol abuse and addiction in the future.

For more information and resources call 211.

National Institute of Mental Health: Teen Depression:




Build Healthy Relationships with Others

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