Mental health is central to everyone’s well-being, particularly adolescents, teens, and young adults. Our youth are active in their communities where they initiate growth, lead and contribute. However, in many cases, some young people face additional challenges that can take a toll on their well-being, including suffering from mental illness. This year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has chosen youth as the focus of World Mental Health Day 2018 with its theme, “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.”
Depression is becoming increasingly common among younger Americans, creating an urgent need to respond systematically. According to SAMHSA’s 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 13.3 percent of youth aged 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode, compared to 12.8 percent in 2016. Young adults aged 18 to 25 had an even greater increase, with 13.1 percent experiencing a major depressive episode in 2017 compared to only 10.9 percent in 2016.
While we should be grateful that 57.4 percent of young adults with a serious mental illness received treatment in 2017, today’s youth may still fear embarrassment for seeking or receiving behavioral health treatment services. Adolescents, teens, and young adults may be struggling and not recognize the signs, or they may not feel comfortable asking for help. For years, SAMHSA has encouraged open discussion about mental health through efforts like Mental Health First Aid and provided lifesaving resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Recognizing the signs of mental illness among youth and providing access to quality treatment is critically important to the overall health of our nation. Together, we can change the conversation on mental health in America and help our youth get the treatment and support they need to flourish at home, at school, and in the community.