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Get the Facts: Mental Illness in Teens and Young Adults



Mental illness is no joke, but when it comes to youth mental health, we often have a sense of humor that doesn’t serve us well. 

One of the most significant barriers to getting help for any serious illness is fear and stigma; people are afraid that they’ll be treated differently or like they’re crazy if they ask for help. 

I want to change that! Here’s what you need to know about mental illness in teens and young adults:


Table of Contents

1. One in five young people has a mental illness.

Mental illness is a broad term that includes many different conditions. 

While mental illnesses are very common in teens and young adults, it’s essential to know that only a small percentage of these illnesses are serious enough to require treatment by a professional. 

The most common mental illnesses in teens and young adults include depression, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders (alcohol or drug abuse). 

Depression is the most common complaint of youth aged 12 to 17; however, anxiety disorders can also be an issue.

The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than 300 million people worldwide with depression each year. 

You may have heard about depression being called “the blues” or “feeling down.” 

Many people with depression feel sad or blue for no apparent reason — they often can’t pinpoint what caused their feelings of sadness. 

But other times, there may be something going on in your life (like stress from schoolwork or relationships) that triggers your sadness so it lasts longer than two weeks even though nothing else has changed in your life since you were feeling better before sadness started happening again!

2. Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24

One in five teenagers has a mental illness, and half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14; three-quarters by age 24. 

Mental illnesses are treatable, but many people with these disorders go untreated because they don’t recognize the symptoms or they find it hard to get help.

Chronic mental illness is a long-term condition that lasts for at least one year and often longer. 

It involves ongoing symptoms such as depression, anxiety, or psychosis (hallucinations). 

If you have had one episode of psychotic symptoms but have never been diagnosed with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (manic depression), you may be experiencing what’s called an “early onset” of psychosis—that means you’re under 24 years old.


3. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people. Suicide is a preventable cause of death and should be treated as a public health problem.

Suicide is more common in males than females, and suicide rates have been increasing for all age groups in recent years. 

It’s also important to note that suicide has been increasing at an alarming rate among middle-aged Americans over the past decade.

If you or someone you know needs help with emotional difficulties, depression, anxiety, or any other issues related to mental health please reach out to one of the following resources:


4. Less than half of children with a mental disorder receive treatment

If your child has a mental disorder, treatment is critical. Treatment helps improve the child’s ability to function in school and at home, and it may help prevent future problems. 

Helping teens with mental disorders get the help they need can have long-lasting benefits for them and their families.

Information about treatment is available on this website, or you can contact your healthcare provider or local mental health organization for more information. 

Most insurance plans cover therapy (including medication) for children with mental disorders if prescribed by a licensed healthcare professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist; so consult with your insurance company before beginning treatment if you have questions about coverage.


Mental illness is common among teens and young adults, but it is eminently treatable

Mental illness is common among teens and young adults, but it is eminently treatable. 

However, many people who suffer from mental health issues do not seek treatment or receive the help that they need.

The good news is that there are many resources available to you if you think someone may be struggling with a mental health issue. 

If you suspect that a loved one may be suffering from a disorder, talk to them about their symptoms and ask how they’re feeling—they’ll likely appreciate your concern and support.

If your friend still refuses treatment after discussing their condition with them directly, consider looking into resources like this at which provides information on finding treatment options in your area as well as referrals to professionals who specialize in treating teens and young adults who are suffering from mental illness.



Mental illness can be scary for teens and young adults. And it’s important to know that there are resources available if you or a loved one needs help. 

To get started, reach out to your doctor or a local mental health professional who can provide information about treatment options in your area. 

You can also visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website at


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