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National Youth Mental Health Awareness Month serves as a reminder each February that caring for a young person’s mental health is of the utmost importance. Youth mental health is essential to healthy development.

However, millions of youth, defined as ages 12 to 17, living with mental or behavioral health challenges go undiagnosed and lack support. Youth mental health disorders come in all shapes and sizes such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and eating disorders. Substance use disorders, such as the use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana, are also prevalent. 

Youth Mental Health Stats That May Shock You

In 2021, 35% of youth experienced a major depressive episode (MDE) in the last year and 27% of the youth who experienced an MDE used alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or other drugs. This would be like one-third of youth experiencing a broken leg, and a quarter of those youth also using a substance. The youth should receive medical care (i.e. x-rays, casts or boots) and be referred to a counselor regarding the drug use. However, with MDEs, one-third of our youth are not receiving mental health care.

Less than half (44%) of the youth who experienced an MDE with severe impairment received treatment for depression in the past year. Impairment is measured across 4 areas of life: chores at home, school or work, close relationships with family and social life. Of the youth population reported as having experienced an MDE in the last year and alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, or other drug use, 4 in 10 youth did not receive services (1).

We would not leave the youth alone to heal their own broken legs. Similarly, we cannot assume that youth living with depression or depression and substance use can manage their own mental and behavioral health care.

Awareness about the importance of youth mental health throughout the developmental years is important. Here are a few free resources that can empower youth to live their best lives!

While resources such as fun educational videos and comic or coloring books can be helpful, it is important to seek mental health care when needed. Youth, who seek mental health services, do so most often for feelings of depression, thinking of or attempting suicide, or because of problems at home or with family. There are many youth experiencing a mental or behavioral health challenge without mental health services or support. If you or a youth you know is experiencing a mental or behavioral health challenge, there is hope! Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or dial 988. You can also call the National Mental Health Hotline at 1-866-903-3787.  For suicide prevention, call 800-273-TALK (8255) or call the 24-hour National Suicide Crisis Hotline at 800-SUICIDE.

The Behavioral Health Wellness Environments for Living and Learning (BH WELL) research team exists to promote behavioral health and wellness among individuals facing behavioral health challenges. Click here for more information about BH WELL. Follow us on social media.