May 2020




  • 1 in 6 U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 17 has a treatable mental health disorder such as depression, anxiety problems or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
  • Among children living below 100% of the federal poverty level, more than 1 in 5 (22%) had a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder.
  • Age and poverty level affected the likelihood of children receiving treatment for anxiety, depressin, or behavior problems.


Adolescent Mental Illness & Paths to Recovery

Adolescence is defined as the period following the onset of puberty where physical, psychological, and social development occurs and helps shape their abilities between childhood and adulthood (NIH, 2019). Cognitive, emotional, and social resources are acquired during adolescence which often sets the foundation for their overall wellbeing. During adolescence many mental disorders may begin to appear (CDC, 2016). The World Health Organization (2016) reported 10-20% of children and adolescence experience mental disorders worldwide, with half of all mental illnesses beginning by age fourteen. In 2016, depression was the ninth leading cause of illness and disability in all adolescents, while suicide was the third leading cause of death in 15-19 year old’s, globally. During this transitional time the burden of mental illness is substantial for adolescents.  Race, ethnicity, and class continue to play a role in mental health outcomes as disadvantaged minority and migrant youth are affected at disproportionately higher rates, leading to poorer mental health outcomes which impacts school completion and employment (WHO, n.d.). For an adolescent with symptoms of a mental health disorder, the earlier treatment is started the more effective it can be. Research has shown early stage adolescent intervention may create long- lasting positive effects against mental health issues in adulthood (Neufeld, Dunn, Jones, Croudace, & Goodyer, 2017). Research by Kelly & Coughlan (2019) indicated facilitators to recovery included control, connection, and acceptance, while barriers to recovery included disconnection, feeling powerless, as well as stigma. Access to mental health services that can provide early diagnosis and interventions bodes well for children, adolescents, and families as they navigate their mental health and wellbeing.

Children & Adolescents May Benefit From Mental Health Services If They:

Warning Signs in Children

  • Experience frequent tantrums or are intensely irritable much of the time
  • Complain about frequent stomach aches or headaches with no known medical cause
  • Is in constant motion and cannot sit quietly (exceptwhen they are watching videos or playing videogames)
  • Not interested in playing with other children or has difficulty making friends
  • Struggles academically or has experienced a recent decline in grades

 Warning Signs in Adolescents

  • Has lost interest in things that they used to enjoy
  • Has low energy
  • Sleep too much or too little, or seem sleepy throughout the day
  • Are spending more and more time alone, and avoid social activities with friends or family
  • Engage in self-harm behaviors (e.g., cutting or burning their skin)
  • Smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs
  • Engage in risky or destructive behavior alone or with friends.



National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
Call the Helpline at 1(800)-950-6264, M-F, 10am-6pm, ET

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1(800) 662-HELP (4357) TTY: 1(800) 487-4889

2nd Floor: Youth Helpline of New Jersey
Call or Text the helpline at 1(888)222-2228

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Visit or call 1(800)273-TALK (8255)


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016). Children’s Mental Health. Retrieved from

Kelly, M. & Coughlan, B. (2019). A theory of youth mental health recovery from a parental perspective. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 24, 161-169. doi: 10.1111/camh.12300.

National Institute of Mental Health (2019). Child and adolescent mental health. Retrieved from

Neufeld, S., Dunn, V., Jones, P.B., Croudace, T. J., & Goodyer, I.M. (2017). Reduction in adolescent depression after contact with mental health services: a longitudinal cohort study in the UK. The Lancet Psychiatry,2017; doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(17)30002-0.

World Health Organization (n.d.) Retrieved from :

Written By: Michelle Pigott, M.A.