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Mental health encompasses one’s emotional, psychological, and social well-being, 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. An article published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems states “half of all mental disorders start by 14 years and are usually preceded by non-specific psychosocial disturbances potentially evolving in any major mental disorder and accounting for 45% of the global burden of disease across the 0–25 age span.” 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.


The teenage brain has a substantial amount of plasticity, meaning it can change, adapt, and respond to its environment. Frontiers In Psychology defines neuroplasticity as “a general umbrella term that refers to the brain’s ability to modify, change, and adapt both structure and function throughout life and in response to experience.” The brain is a continuously evolving organ. Even when all areas of a brain have fully developed, its growth and maturation does not cease to continue. Neural pathways are developed through synaptic connections that occur in one’s brain, directly resulting from a person’s habits and behaviors. These connections create a map of a myriad of circuits within one’s brain, influenced by outside stimuli, enabling the brain to process various experiences, and are essential in how the brain retains and accesses information. Neural pathways strengthen with repetition and can similarly become obsolete without repetition, which is why many connections that are developed during adolescence do not necessarily continue into adulthood.

Pre-Frontal Cortex & Amygdala 

The pre-frontal cortex is the area of the brain that governs one’s reasoning, ability to problem-solve, plan, and impulse control. When the pre-frontal cortex is fully developed it helps a person think before he or she acts. The pre-frontal cortex also happens to be one of the last areas of the brain to develop, often continuing to evolve and mature well into adulthood. Therefore, a teenager must rely on the amygdala to solve problems and make decisions. The amygdala is the area of the brain that is associated with emotions, instinctive behavior, impulsivity, and aggression. It is also where emotions are given meaning, remembered, and stored. Additionally, the amygdala is responsible for activating the fight-flight response when feeling threatened and/ or afraid. Because the teenage pre-frontal cortex is underdeveloped, teenagers innately make decisions from an emotional standpoint, as they are processed through the amygdala. This causes young people to exhibit highly charged and fluctuating moods, increasing their emotional vulnerability, which can directly influence a teen’s 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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