Youth Mental Health

Mental Health

As with physical health, mental health is not merely the absence of disease or a mental health disorder. Mental health involves being able to navigate successfully the complexities of life, develop fulfilling relationships, adapt to change, and utilize appropriate coping mechanisms to achieve well-being without discrimination.1 Further, it includes the ability for individuals to realize their potential, have their needs met, and develop skills that help them navigate the different environments they inhabit.2 Indicators of mental health include emotional well-being, psychological well-being, and social well-being.3 Children and youth normally experience various type of emotional distress during their stages of development as they “navigate the complexities of life.” For example, it is normal for children to experience anxiety about school, or youth to experience short periods of depression that are transient in nature. When symptoms persist, it may be time to seek professional assistance. Learn more about key terms related to the mental health continuum.

Mental health is “dependent upon good health, positive social relationships, and availability and access to basic resources (e.g., shelter, income).”4 These indicators can help to create environments and supports that promote mental health. While most youth are healthy, physically and emotionally, one in every four to five youth in the general population meet criteria for a lifetime mental disorder and as a result may face discrimination and negative attitudes.5 The presence or absence of various combinations of protective and risk factors contribute to the mental health of youth. Youth with mental health disorders may face challenges in their homes, school, community, and interpersonal relationships. Despite these challenges, for most youth, mental health distress is episodic, not permanent, and most can successfully navigate the challenges that come from experiencing a mental health disorder with treatment, peer and professional supports and services, and a strong family and social support network.

While this youth topic is not focused on specific mental health conditions, you can learn more about some of these conditions by reading the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) fact sheets that focus on specific mental health conditions for children and youth. They include:

Additional fact sheets on suicide prevention, treating children with mental illness, statistics, and more are also available.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999
2 National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2004
3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2011
4 CDC, Health-Related Quality of Life, 2011
5 Merikangas, He, Burstein, et al., 2010



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