Adolescent Mental Health Issues
Adolescence is a developmental stage, occurring from age 11 to 21, which marks a child’s transition to young adulthood. It is generally a time of self-discovery in which young people aim to define their place in the world. During adolescent development, children complete puberty and physical growth. They also develop important social, emotional and intellectual skills, while striving toward independence and autonomy. Adolescence can be a challenging time for teenagers as well as their families. In the quest for independence, many adolescents start questioning parental authority and often show signs of rebelliousness, which can create family tension. Teenagers also typically struggle with an increasing need to belong in society. As a result, many spend more time with friends than family. This allows teens to develop and practice social skills. However, it is also within this setting that adolescents may face issues regarding peer pressure, sexual intercourse and experimentation with alcohol and drugs.
For some adolescents, these common trials can be aggravated by ongoing factors, such as a dysfunctional family, inadequate education, living in poverty and/or high-crime neighborhoods. Feelings of stress, confusion and depression from circumstances related to family, academic and social life can overwhelm many young people. This sometimes can put adolescents at risk for dropping out of school, running away from home, joining gangs, developing substance abuse or dependence, having unprotected sex, committing suicide and other types of self-destructive behaviors. Many people experience mental health or substance abuse problems at some time during their lives. At least one in five children and adolescents may express a mental health problem in any year and in the U.S., it is estimated that one in 10 children and adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment. However, in any given year, it is estimated that fewer than one in five of such children receives needed treatment.
Mental health problems include all diagnosable emotional, behavioral, and mental disorders. Behavioral, mental disorders and/or substance abuse issues can create a chain of events contributing to violent or suicidal behavior. Particularly if not recognized and treated, these problems may affect a young person’s self-esteem, ability to maintain relationships and their success in school. It is the co-occurrence of behavioral and mental disorders that can be most risky—for example, anti-social conduct co-existing with depression—that may result in violent or suicidal behavior. Left unaddressed, early mental health issues may also develop into severe problems in the adult years.
If you suspect your adolescent is in need of an evaluation as a result of a concerning mental health or substance abuse issue, you are encouraged to access the “Juneau Mental Health Directory” to obtain mental health or substance abuse support services for them.
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