• Relates to emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
o It affects how we think, feel, and act.
o It can act as a gauge to measuring our ability of handling stress, relate to others, and make choices
• A commonly used definition of mental health is “… a state of well - being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”
• Mental health is an important aspect to pay attention to, at every stage of life.
o From childhood and adolescence, up to adulthood
• Over the course of your life, if you experience mental health problems, it can affect your:
o Ability to succeed in school, at work, within relationships, and in society
• Mental well-being makes up an integral part of your capacity to lead a fulfilling life, including the ability to:
o Form relationships
o Work or pursue leisure interests
o Make day - to - day decisions and choices
• Having positive mental health allows us to live a fulfilling life and adapt to life stressors
• Not paying attention to your mental health can lead to serious consequences:
o Increased stress
o Loss in quality of personal relationships
o Risk of suicide
• This is why it is important to be mindful of your mental state in how your life circumstances may be affecting your mental health and way of thinking.
• Biological factors
o Genes or brain chemistry
o Unfortunately, this aspect may be out of our control.
o Genes and brain chemistry run a natural course that can be unpredictable at times, and may result in chemical and gene imbalances that contribute to the quality of one’s mental health.
o However, with modern advancements in medicine and treatment, there is always hope in finding help that will lead to a stable and successful way of living.
• Life experiences
o Trauma & abuse
• Trauma can be experienced from unexpected events such as, a serious car accident or natural disaster. It can also be experienced from witnessing family violence and abuse.
o Chronic stress
• We all experience normal stressors of life, like interviewing for a job, keeping up with schoolwork, maintaining relationships
• But if one’s ability to handle stress is low, then the stresses of daily life may become to difficult to handle, having a negative impact on one’s mental health
• Loss can be normal throughout life, like a loss of a job, or relationship…
But in some cases, experiencing continual loss may contribute negatively to one’s mental health
Or the large impact of a suffered loss can make it difficult to move on in life
o Family history
• It is a normal part of development for teens to experience a wide range of emotions.
• It is typical, for instance, for teens to feel anxious about school or friendships, or to experience a period of depression following the death of a close friend or family member.
• BUT…it’s important to distinguish a mental health disorder from the normal range of emotions your teen may experience from different life circumstances.
Mental health disorders are characterized by long-lasting, or chronic symptoms that affect how a young person feels, thinks, and acts.
Mental health disorders may interfere with regular activities and daily functioning, such as school, work, relationships, sleeping, and eating.
• Most teens have positive mental health (emotional well-being, and psychological and social well being) but, the research shows that:
o 1 in 5 teens has a diagnosable mental health disorder
• Problems with mental health may begin early in life
o Half of all mental health issues begin at age 14
• The good news is that promoting positive mental health can prevent some problems from starting.
• The symptoms and warning signs of low mental health may be different for each teenager.
• Some may experience one or two symptoms, while others may experience more.
• But there are always warning signs that will tell you if your teen needs help.
• According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a teen may need help if they are:
o Feeling very sad, withdrawn or unmotivated for more than two weeks.
o Having change in school performance
o Making plans or trying to harm or kill oneself
o Out-of-control, risk-taking behaviors
o Sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing
o Not eating, throwing up or using laxatives to lose weight; significant weight loss or weight gain
o Having difficulty sleeping or eating
o Severe mood swings causing problems in relationships.
o Excess use of drugs or alcohol
o Drastic changes in behavior, personality or sleeping habits.
o Extreme difficulty in concentrating or staying still
o Intense worries or fears getting in the way of daily activities like hanging out with friends or going to classes
o Inability to carry out daily activities or handle daily problems and stress
o Are unable to enjoy pleasurable activities they used to enjoy
o Isolate themselves and avoid social interactions
o Feel grief for along time after a loss or death
o Harm themselves (e.g. burning or cutting their skin)
• Again, it is important to note that not every teen will experience all of these symptoms, but it varies.
• Common mental health disorders in adolescence include those related to anxiety, depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity, and eating
• Anxiety Disorders
o Shown by feelings excessive uneasiness, worry, and fear
o Occur in 32% of 13 to 18 year olds
o Examples include:
• generalized anxiety disorder
• post-traumatic stress disorder
• social anxiety disorder
• obsessive-compulsive disorder
o Depressed mood that affects thoughts, feelings, and daily activities, including eating, sleeping, and working
o If a teen is depressed, they may experience feelings of sadness and loss of joy in activities or hobbies that have usually brought happiness
o Depression is the most common mental health disorder, affecting nearly 1 in 8 adolescents and young adults each year
• Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD)
o Prolonged and extended times of difficulty focusing and paying attention, interfering with daily functioning and development.
o Occurs in 9% of 13-18 year olds
• Eating Disorders
o Extreme and abnormal eating behaviors, such as intentional under-eating or overeating occurs in 3% of 13-18 year olds
o Examples include anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder
• Knowing warning signs can help let you know if you need to speak to a professional. For many people, getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step in a treatment plan.
• Unlike diabetes or cancer, there is no medical test that can accurately diagnose mental illness. A mental health professional will use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, to assess symptoms and make a diagnosis.
• If you think you notice symptoms, schedule an appointment with a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist as soon as you can, or if that is not possible, then with your pediatrician or primary care physician. Make sure that you provide your healthcare professional with as much detailed information as you can:
o Past mental health evaluations and other medical records
o Descriptions of symptoms, when they began, and whether they have changed over time
o Any medications or other medical treatments that your child is receiving
o Anything else that is requested or that you think might be valuable information
• If a doctor, psychologist or counselor does not provide a diagnosis or referral to another professional, you should ask why and consider their reasoning. If you disagree, trust your instincts and seek a second opinion. It is often better to be cautious than to ignore a potentially serious problem.
• Be Attentive
o Begin by taking notice of your teen’s moods, behaviors and emotions. Early intervention is critical because mental health conditions often get worse without treatment.
o Many conditions are cyclical and periods of strong symptoms may come and go. Symptoms aren’t visible all the time. Teens may also hide certain symptoms by saying and doing what they believe is expected of them
• Talk with them about their troubles:
o Creating a safe environment where your teen can express their concerns and feelings is an important aspect to promoting positive mental health
o When teens feel that they are heard and understood, it helps them feel supported and helps them process and cope with the stresses of high school
• Learn all that you can:
o In addition to seeking help from healthcare professionals, it is beneficial to educate yourself as much as possible about your teen’s mental health condition.
o The National Alliance on Mental Illness is a good online resource to receive information on all things related to mental health
• Talk with your teen’s school
o Check to be sure that your teen is receiving appropriate care and services at school. Teens with mental health conditions may struggle in school without assistance, leading to frustration and stress. Fortunately, the law requires that schools provide special services and accommodations to teens with mental health conditions that interfere with their education.
o Even if your teen does not have a diagnosed mental illness, but is struggling to cope with stress or manage their behavior, counseling services can help support your teen in getting back on track.
• Here at WGHS, we have two local non-profit agencies that provide counseling services to students based on a contract with the San Jose Unified School District
o Gardner Family Care
o The YWCA
• Both agencies have well-trained professional counselors that are here to help students with whatever difficulties they may be experiencing.
• It is the goal of counseling services to provide support for students in providing coping skills to
• Type of support:
o Counseling services offer student support for behavioral, academic, and emotional needs