Mental Health and Substance Abuse Literacy: Introduction

The teen years are a time of significant physical growth and maturation. Complex brain and hormone changes are occurring during these years as teens move toward adulthood. By in large, these are years of robust physical health, but, the physical, hormonal and personal changes that are the hallmark of this period sometimes result in emotional stresses. In fact, many of those who will develop emotional illnesses will show the first signs of difficulty or even have first episodes of illness during the teen or young adult years.

As a result, it is very valuable for young people, their families and those who come into daily contact with them in school to understand the basics of mental health and substance problems that may emerge during this time. As young people prepare for life in college (or if not attending college, life as an adult), they will have more responsibility to care for their own health. This makes it all the more important that they have a sense of when they may be having a problem which requires support or professional care and how to reach out for help.

In this section we have tried to give a clear and simple overview of the factors that protect young people from emotional and substance problems such as having strong life skills, coping skills and a positive sense of connectedness with family and friends. We also provide a brief review of mental health problems and suggest how you or your student might know something is wrong. Finally, we provide some suggestions about how to get support and care or how someone might help a friend should a problem emerge.  Remember, it is not so important to know what the exact nature of the problem is. What is important is recognizing if and when a problem may be arising and knowing how to get help! It will be useful to consider how some of this content (Mental Health and Substance Abuse Literacy for Students and for Families) might be included in school based programs or woven into health curricula for your schools.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.