Most mental disorders begin during youth (12-24 years of age), although they are often first detected later in life. Poor mental health is strongly related to other health and development concerns in young people, notably lower educational achievements, substance abuse and violence. The National Alliance on Mental Health provides these statistics which demonstrate the struggle for youngsters dealing with mental health challenges.

  • 20% of youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition
  • 11% of youth have a mood disorder, 10% have a behavior/conduct disorder and 8% have an anxiety disorder
  • 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24
  • 90% of those who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness

Untreated mental health problems can disrupt children’s functioning at home, school and in the community. Without treatment, children with mental health issues are at an increased risk of school failure, contact with the criminal justice system and even suicide. As adults, we can take it upon ourselves to be informed about mental illness so we know what to look for in the children in our lives. Parents and family members are usually the first to notice if a child has problems with emotions or behavior. Parental observations, along with those of teachers and other caregivers, can help determine whether there is a need to seek help.

  • Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks (e.g., crying regularly, feeling fatigued, feeling unmotivated)
  • Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart, physical discomfort or fast breathing
  • Severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Repeated use of drugs or alcohol
  • Withdrawal from usual activities
  • Intense worries or fears that get in the way of daily activities
  • Trying to harm or kill oneself or making plans to do so
  • Out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors that can cause harm to self or others
  • Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight; significant weight loss or gain
  • Drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits
  • Extreme difficulty in concentrating that can lead to failure in school

Bullying – Long Lasting Impacts

In 2013, Duke University professors published research that shows the degree to which bullying can affect someone’s mental health. The study discovered that victims of childhood bullying have a higher risk of developing mental health problems later in life. The study followed more than 1,000 youth, starting at the ages of 9, 11 and 13. The youth were interviewed each year until they turned 16. Follow-up interviews were then conducted into adulthood.

Results of the study showed bullying elevated the rate of mental health problems.  Some of the key findings were:

  • Youth who were victims of bullying had a higher chance of having agoraphobia, anxiety and panic disorders.
  • Youth who bullied were at risk for antisocial personality disorder.
  • Those doing the bullying as well as their victims had higher levels of all anxiety and depressive disorders, plus the highest levels of suicidal thoughts, generalized anxiety and panic disorder.

For some help with the topic of bullying, from noticing the symptoms to having a conversation with a youngster to finding out where/how to get help, visit the MHA.

Sources: The National Alliance on Mental Health, Duke University, Mental Health America, Mayo Clinic