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Youth Mental Health

Far too many young people are struggling with their mental health and unable to get the support they need. We all have a role to play in supporting youth mental health and creating a world where young people thrive.

Content Warning: This page contains references to self harm and suicide.
The Youth Mental Health advisory cover sheet, titled Protecting Youth Mental Health, The U.S Surgeon General's Advisory

Why Youth Mental Health Matters

Mental health challenges are the leading cause of disability and poor life outcomes in young people. Unfortunately, in recent years, we’ve seen significant increases in certain mental health disorders in youth, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Many factors shape the mental health of young people, from individual to societal level forces.

Read the advisory on social media and youth mental health

It is especially important to protect the mental health of minority and marginalized young people. Due to factors beyond their control, these groups are at a higher risk for mental health difficulties. Dr. Murthy has written a public health report about this specific challenge.

Read the Public Health Report

“If we seize this moment, step up for our children and their families in their moment of need, and lead with inclusion, kindness, and respect, we can lay the foundation for a healthier, more resilient, and more fulfilled nation.”
—Dr. Vivek H. Murthy
Surgeon General of the United States

Mental health is an essential part of overall health

Mental health conditions are real, common, and treatable. People experiencing mental health challenges deserve support, compassion, and care—not stigma and shame.

COVID-19 added to pre-existing challenges that youth faced

Since the pandemic began, rates of psychological distress among young people have increased. The pandemic is most heavily affecting those who were already vulnerable. This includes youth with disabilities, racial and ethnic minorities, LBGTQ+ youth, and other marginalized communities.

Mental health is shaped by a combination of factors

Mental health conditions can be shaped by biological factors, including genes and brain chemistry and environmental factors, including life experiences. View this graphic for more information.

Focusing on youth mental health now is critical

We all have a role to play in supporting the mental health of children and youth. Continue reading this page for actionable steps we can take today.

Youth Mental Health Q&A with Dr. Vivek Murthy

A silhouette of Surgeon General Dr. Murthy on a stool speaking with 2 other silhouettes. One silhouette appears to be an adult and the other a child.

How can we take action?

Maintaining healthy children and families requires all of society—including policy, institutional, and individual changes in how we view and prioritize mental health.

Ways to act based on your role

What young people can do:

  1. Remember that mental health challenges are real, common, and treatable.
  2. Ask for help.
  3. Reach out to a friend in need.
  4. Build and maintain healthy relationships.
  5. Learn and practice techniques to manage stress and other difficult emotions.
  6. Take care of your body and mind.
  7. Be intentional about your use of social media, video games, and other technologies.

Ways to act based on your role

Spread the word with these shareable tools

Additional resources for

Lifeline Resources

If you are experiencing an emergency, get immediate support (available 24/7):