Skip to main content

It’s normal for children and youth to experience various types of emotional distress as they develop and mature. For example, children commonly experience anxiety about school, as well as short periods of depression that are transient in nature. When symptoms persist, it may be time to seek professional assistance. While most youth are healthy, physically and emotionally, one in every four to five youth meets criteria for a lifetime mental disorder, and as a result may face discrimination and negative attitudes.1

As with physical health, mental health is not merely the absence of disease or a mental health disorder. It includes emotional well-being, psychological well-being, social well-being,2 and involves being able to:

  • Navigate successfully the complexities of life
  • Develop fulfilling relationships
  • Adapt to change
  • Utilize appropriate coping mechanisms to achieve well-being without discrimination
  • Realize their potential
  • Have their needs met
  • Develop skills that help them navigate the different environments they inhabit.3

Various combinations of protective and risk factors contribute to the mental health of youth, and efforts can be undertaken to promote positive mental health and prevent or minimize mental health problems. 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.

  1. Merikangas, He, Burstein, et al., 2010
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2011; CDC, Health-Related Quality of Life, 2011
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999; National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2004