Mental Health and Youth

Being a student is stressful, and according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately one in five youth aged 13–18 live with mental health conditions and approximately 75 percent of people with mental health issues develop them prior to the age of 24.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, one in eight children are affected by anxiety, yet 80 percent of those with a diagnosed anxiety disorder do not receive treatment. This is a key part of the conversation that needs to be considered today. We need to change the idea that “something is shamefully wrong” when a child is suffering from anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, rather than being approached as a problem like any other ailment. Without counseling, medication, and other helpful tools for treating anxiety, children are likely to experience long–lasting issues. Anxiety disorders have been on the rise in K–12 children since at least the 1950s, and studies show that numbers are expected to continue to rise in the coming years. Awareness brings recognition, and as we as a culture understand the effects of anxiety and depression, we can have better conversations, leading to better treatment.

Anxiety can be a normal part of childhood if experienced occasionally, but students with continued symptoms often have a treatable anxiety disorder. Stress and anxiety can hinder academic success more than any other non-academic factors. It can lead to impaired concentration, poor judgment, and memory issues. Depression, agitation, and the inability to relax can lead to a vicious cycle of procrastination and falling behind, which compounds the emotional or mental health issue. For some students, things can become so out of control that they turn to self-medication with drugs and alcohol. Anxiety and stress may also manifest themselves physically, causing students to suffer from nausea, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and chest pains.

Many children and teens have difficulty articulating emotional problems, or even simple feelings. Younger children will more likely say “My stomach hurts” rather than, “I am worried about the spelling bee tomorrow,” or other more serious emotional or family problems they may be experiencing. If you are a parent or a teacher and you are observing youth with any of these signs and symptoms, reach out to your local human services agency, or visit the Vermont Care Partners website- for more information. Help is never something to be ashamed of, and that is where the conversations need to begin.

New approaches to mental health are being introduced throughout the State of Vermont, including Youth Mental Health First Aid, Zero Suicide Initiatives, and Seven Challenges drug and alcohol support services. Vermont Care Partners and the network of the 16 designated Mental Health agencies throughout Vermont are working hard to support youth and help our communities understand the positive impact that support services can have on children and teens.

The information above was adapted from the Vermont Care Partners. Visit the Vermont Care Partners website for more information and to find the designated mental health agency in your area.

What Can a Parent Do?

Being a parent can be challenging, especially during stressful times. Thankfully, there are some useful tips to keep in mind and resources you can turn to for help.

  • Listen with an open mind.
  • Teens communicate with both behavior and their words.
  • Take care of yourself: Reach out to others, exercise, or listen to or play music.
  • Even in times of stress, do something fun or special with your teen each day.
  • Balance close supervision with giving space.
  • Avoid power struggles and be open to a different perspective.
  • Testing limits is an expected part of teen development.
  • Remember, it’s okay to ask for help.