The Most Common Mental Health Concerns for Teens
Published on August 22, 2023 by Rose Strawser
What are the most common mental health diagnoses for teens?If you do a quick internet search of the most common mental health diagnoses for teens, you will see Depression, Anxiety, and Behavioral Problems at the top of the list. Having more than one of these conditions is common as well, for example, a child with depression may also have anxiety and/or behavior problems. Community and economic factors play an important role in these concerns – among children living below the federal poverty level, almost 25% had one of these conditions, and children who were discriminated against based on race or ethnicity had even higher percentages.
How many teens struggle with mental health concerns and do they seek treatment?In a recent study, 37% of the teens studied had persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. The key word in this study is “persistent” . . . this means they weren’t mentioning a few times of feeling sad or hopeless, but an ongoing continual feeling. While nearly 8 out of 10 children with depression do receive treatment for their condition, only 6 out of 10 children with anxiety received treatment. It is concerning that almost half of children with anxiety are either not seeking help or are not being heard. These disorders affect a teen’s school attendance, schoolwork, peer interactions, and family relationships. If we fail to address these mental health conditions in our teenage years, it can extend into adulthood, limiting the chance to lead fulfilling lives as adults.
What are the mental health warning signs in teens?We often hear of the warning signs of anxiety and depression which include excessive worrying, irritability, nervousness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, no longer enjoying activities that they previously enjoyed, or physical issues such as headaches or stomach pain. But do we know what the signs are that show a teen has developed positive mental health? Perhaps looking for the lack of these positive indicators of mental health will help us recognize a problem as well. For teens aged 12-17, positive mental health traits include curiosity, persistence, and self-control.
How can we help teens with mental health concerns?Adolescence is a crucial time for developing social and emotional habits to help with well-being. In addition to regular sleep and exercise habits, teens also need to increase their problem-solving skills, coping mechanisms, managing emotions, and social skills. One program that has been successful in developing these habits and coping skills is the Blues Program for teens. The Blues Program is an internationally acclaimed wellbeing program for teens aged 14-19, teaching emotional resilience and reducing low mood and anxious thoughts. Proven outcomes include reduced depression symptoms for up to two years, less likelihood to develop a major depression disorder, and reduced substance use. The Blues Program involves six hours of group sessions, plus home tasks, where students learn how to challenge negative thoughts and talk about different coping strategies. Regular group work builds rapport and confidence while the home tasks are a chance to practice the new skills learned. For more information, please check out bluesprogram.org. And, as we always recommend, please don’t hesitate to contact professional help when needed.