Only after the enormous physical, psychological, and emotional changes that define the teenage years have settled can we all truly appreciate just how challenging adolescence really is. The mental health toolkit created by Dr. Laura Offutt for Teen Health Week stresses the important connection between physical health and psychological well-being:

You’ve probably heard the term “mind-body connection” and that’s because physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand. While we take care of our bodies with exercise and good nutrition, we need to take care of our mental health, too.

Teen mental health is especially important. The teenage years can be a vulnerable time with tremendous physical changes and emotional development and growth. Nearly one in five people live with a mental health condition, and half of all mental disorders diagnosed in adulthood actually begin as early as age 14. It is important to understand the prevalence of mental health conditions but also that they do not need to be debilitating. Awareness and acknowledgement is important, as is de-stigmatizing mental health and its treatment. Seeking help early on — before there is a crisis — is essential.


The statistics regarding mental illness in the United States and around the world scream for desperate comprehension and action:

  • Worldwide, depression is the third leading cause of illness and disability among adolescents, and suicide is the third leading cause of death in older adolescents, ages 15-19 years.
  • Mental health conditions are common among teens and young adults. 1 in 5 live with a mental health condition — half develop the condition by age 14 and three quarters by age 24.
  • Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.
  • 70% of youth in U.S. juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness.
  • Teenagers with mental disorders are more likely to experience homelessness, be arrested, drop out of school, and be underemployed. Compared to all other chronic health conditions, mental disorders produce the greatest disability impact within this age group.
  • LGBT people, especially youth, experience high levels of mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. LGBT youth are at high risk for suicide attempts and completions. Suicide is a particular concern for transgender people. In the largest US survey of transgender adults to date, 41% of respondents reported having attempted suicide.
  • Mental disorders frequently lead individuals and families into poverty and homelessness. Mental health disorders marginalize youth and make them more vulnerable to exploitation and ignoring of their basic human rights.
  • Mental healthcare is insufficient world-wide, with almost 50% of patients in high income countries, and up to 85% of patients in low and mid-income countries receiving no treatment at all for mental health disorders. For young people, the situation is equally dire.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 15-29 globally.
  • Rates of self-harm behavior, including cutting, are rising amongst both male and female adolescents. In one study, rates increased almost 70% in teen girls ages 13 – 16 from 2011 to 2014 to 77/10,000. In another, from Australia, nearly 1 in 10 adolescents aged less than 20 years reported harming themselves at some time.


Read more from the Teen Health Week Mental Health Toolkit here.

The Teen Health Week toolkits that we haven’t covered on The PediaBlog over the past few days — on preventive care and vaccines, healthy diet and exercise, substance use and abuse, and oral health — can all be seen here on the College of Physicians of Philadelphia website.