Adolescent Mental Health Basics
Most adolescents experience positive mental health, but one in five has had a serious mental health disorder at some point in their life.1 Problems with mental health often start early in life. In fact, half of all mental health problems begin by age 14.2 The good news is that promoting positive mental health can prevent some problems from starting. For young people who already have mental health disorders, early intervention and treatment can help lessen the impact on their lives.
Impact of Mental Health Problems in Adolescence
It is a normal part of development for teens to experience a wide range of emotions. It is typical, for instance, for teens to feel anxious about school or friendships, or to experience a period of depression following the death of a close friend or family member. Mental health disorders, however, are characterized by persistent symptoms that affect how a young person feels, thinks, and acts. Mental health disorders also can interfere with regular activities and daily functioning, such as relationships, schoolwork, sleeping, and eating.3
Depression is the most common mental health disorder, affecting nearly one in eight adolescents and young adults each year.4 Adolescents who experience symptoms of depression most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks in the year are having a major depressive episode.5 The number of adolescents who experienced major depressive episodes increased by nearly a third from 2005 to 2014.6
When left untreated, mental health disorders can lead to serious—even life-threatening—consequences. Depression, other mental health disorders, and substance use disorders are major risk factors for suicide.7 Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds.8 In 2013 and 2014, children ages 10 to 14 were more likely to die from suicide than in a motor vehicle accident.9 Any concerns that family members or healthcare providers have about an adolescent’s mental health should be promptly addressed.
Content last reviewed on March 14, 2018