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 types 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
How Trained Service Professionals and Self-Advocacy Makes a Difference for Youth with Mental Health, Substance Abuse, or Co-occurring Issues
Statistics reflecting the number of youth suffering from mental health, substance abuse, and co-occurring disorders highlight the necessity for schools, families, support staff, and communities to work together to develop targeted, coordinated, and comprehensive transition plans for young people with a history of mental health needs and/or substance abuse.
Coordinating Systems to Support Transition Age Youth with Mental Health Needs
Research has demonstrated that as many as one in five children/youth have a diagnosable mental health disorder. Read about how coordination between public service agencies can improve treatment for these youth.
Celebrating Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day and National Mental Health Awareness Month
President Obama has proclaimed that May is National Mental Health Awareness Month to help erase the negative attitudes and discrimination associated with receiving mental health services and spread the word that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength.. As a part of National Mental Health Awareness Month, the SAMHSA is sponsoring National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 9, 2013.
Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released a new toolkit that is aimed at being part of a nationwide effort to help the one out of every fifteen high school students who attempt suicide each year.
Federal Government Releases Annual Statistical Report on the Well-Being of the Children and Youth
The report was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a working group of 22 federal agencies that collect, analyze, and convey data on issues related to children and families.
Map My Community is a tool designed specifically to assist you in locating resources in your community to help you build and strengthen your youth program. Get ideas for new partnerships, identify gaps in your community, and learn about resources to avoid duplication of effort.
FindYouthInfo.gov is the U.S. government Web site that helps you create, maintain, and strengthen effective youth programs. Included are youth facts, funding information, and tools to help you assess community assets, generate maps of local and federal resources, search for evidence-based youth programs, and keep up-to-date on the latest, youth-related news.