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Mental health encompasses one’s emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing, and is an essential component of overall health. According to the American Psychiatric Association, mental illnesses are defined as “health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these).” Mental illness is highly common among teenagers in the United States. Data presented from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that an estimated 49.5% of adolescents aged 13-18 in America had AMI (any mental illness). Of the nearly fifty percent of adolescents with AMI, approximately 22.2% had severe impairment. Additionally, research indicates adolescence also happens to be the time that dormant mental health ailments may begin to manifest, or when new mental health disorders develop. According to findings from the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative half of all mental health conditions start by age 14 but most cases go undetected and untreated. Multiple factors affect mental health. 

Causes and Risk Factors

A report by the Surgeon General, entitled Risk Factors for Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders in Adolescents, illuminates the notion that mental health conditions can be shaped by a variety of contributing factors. Identified risk factors that may influence a teenager’s susceptibility to developing a mental health disorder include the following:

  • Biology: Studies have indicated that there is a genetic factor in relation to the development of mental illness. Therefore, because of one’s genes and DNA makeup some young people are predisposed to mental health disorders more than others. It has also been noted that one’s gender, ethnicity, and both personal and family history of the presence of other mental disorders can contribute to one’s susceptibility for developing a mental health illness. 
  • Brain chemistry: when neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry signals to other parts of the brain and body) are impaired and/ or are abnormal, the function of the nerve receptors and nerve systems in one’s brain are altered, which can result in the development of mental illness. Furthermore, deviations from typical serotonin (hormone that works to stabilize one’s mood, happiness, and feelings of well-being) production could increase one’s vulnerability to mental health problems. 
  • Hormones: the hormone shifts and subsequent hormone imbalances that adolescents experience could be involved in triggering or causing mental illness.
  • Environmental factors: growing up in an unstable, neglectful, and/ or abusive environment could increase one’s risk for developing a mental health disorder. 

The more risk factors adolescents are exposed to, the greater the potential impact on their mental health.

For Information and Support

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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