According to Clinical Psychiatry Times, a recent study revealed that roughly 75% of young adults aged 18 and over admitted to experiencing feelings of hopelessness at some point throughout the year of 2017. Teens and young adults are particularly vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and self-injury for a variety of reasons during their high school and college years. While many students are prone to mental health issues due to genetic family history, many cases of mental health struggles in high school and college students develop from environmental factors at home, among friends, through extracurricular activities, jobs, academic pressures, and more.
Each individual will be affected by life pressures in different ways and for different reasons. Depression is often a common mental health issue among teens and young adults. Severe anxiety is also a rapidly growing concern within these age groups. Many young people will choose to self-harm or turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism. Suicide continues to rise with each passing decade for young people. And eating disorders are always a concern in this age range. Individuals with ADD and ADHD are also highly susceptible to additional mental health issues. While experiencing mental health issues can feel overwhelming and hopeless at times, the good news is that there are plenty of resources and support options to help you lead a more positive life and improve your mental health outlook.
Resources for Before and After College
Most Common Mental Health Challenges for College Students
College students face numerous pressures as they begin their journey through adulthood. These young adults are often leaving home for the first time. The separation and distance from everything and everyone they have known for 18 years can create anxiety for some students. While the introduction of hundreds and thousands of people who are similar in age can provide some relief in the early days, these newly developed friendships and acquaintance relationships can quickly evolve into the development of mental health issues for a myriad of reasons.
Students can develop feelings of inadequacy. Peer pressure exists to look a certain way, think a certain way, or even drink more alcohol than desired. Drugs may become readily available for studying and partying, and courses might be more challenging than expected. Some students will have to work one or two jobs to pay the bills while other students might have everything paid for by their family. Not that the privilege doesn’t come with its own set of expectations. Eating healthy and exercising regularly can begin to slide due to a busy schedule, lack of funds, and life’s daily stresses. It can also be significantly challenging for students who are being exposed to new ways of life and cultural differences for the first time in their lives. All of these scenarios and more can lead to exacerbating existing mental health issues or the development of new mental health issues that could last the rest of their lives.
If you experienced mental health issues in high school, or even if you’ve experienced such struggles all of your life, it can be difficult to manage while you are away from your support system. Be sure you establish a support system on campus, surround yourself with positive influences, and have the details of medical professionals in your college town before you begin classes. Whether you have ADHD, an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, it’s important that you be mindful of drugs and alcohol, as they can make struggles with mental health exponentially more difficult. It’s also a good idea to limit the amount of time you spend on social media to maintain or improve your mental health more easily and more effectively.
It’s also important to note that mental health issues are not a weakness, nor are you alone. In 2016, nearly two-thirds of all college students responding to a National College Health Assessment reported feeling overwhelming anxiety. College students also suffer from depression at higher rates than many other age groups. Suicide is the third most common cause of death among young adults and undiagnosed eating disorders, ADD, ADHD, and autism spectrum disorders continue to be a challenge for even more college students. Regardless of your mental health issues, there can have long-term consequences on your career path and general quality of life if you do not seek treatment and support.
Most Common Mental Health Challenges for High School Students
High school is a minefield of mental health struggles for each and every high school student, regardless of their social status. The pressures placed on these teens continue to rise each year. A large contributing factor today is parents. They want their children to do well in high school so they can go on to have a successful college experience and be exceptional in life. Young people today are pressured to excel in academics, athletics, extracurriculars, volunteering, work experience, and more.
The problem with such high expectations is that teens feel the heavy weight of this pressure, and it can be overwhelming to have so many expectations placed on young people who are highly susceptible to succumbing to and becoming overwhelmed by such pressures placed on them by both peers and parents. These pressures can easily lead to mental health issues, and some parents also unfairly take their personal issues out on their children, which can lead to even greater issues that can last a lifetime if teens do not learn to manage them in a safe and healthy manner.
Peer pressure is an entirely different type of risk to mental health in teens. Sadly, it will almost always be an issue for teens. Between the Internet, social media, and in-person pressures, young people today don’t have much chance to rally escape from life pressures. All these mental health challenges can lead to a variety of mental health issues. Up to 70% of teens and young adults state that they feel anxiety and depression are an issue in their community. Over half of all high schoolers believe bullying continues to be an issue. Keep in mind that this can include face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying. Fifty percent of high schoolers also believe drug addiction affects their peers and 45% feel drinking alcohol is an issue. In other communities, poverty, gangs, and teen pregnancy are major concerns.
The stresses of life for teens can lead to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and even PTSD from previous trauma. It’s also possible that underlying mental health issues associated with various disorders, that already exist due to genetics, will be exacerbated by ever-present stress. Such disorders include ADD, ADHD, autism, and schizophrenia. It is essential that high schoolers seek treatment so that they do not pursue suicide, self-harm, or self-medication. Many high schoolers suffer in silence. As such, it is imperative for friends and family to be mindful of the signs and symptoms so sufferers can receive the treatment they require for a more fulfilling, enjoyable, and safe future.
How Mental Health Issues Are Diagnosed
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) or (DSM-5) is the official guide for diagnosis criteria regarding mental health issues and mental health disorders. Each version of this manual updates various approaches, methodologies, and recognized types of disorders. As part of the most recent version, a new approach is to be taken with children. Rather than isolating their conditions, it is essential to approach childhood mental health in a way that embraces that conditions in children and teens continue to appear at various stages throughout their lives. Such conditions may also change in conjunction with changes in a child as they become older. This can impact the way the mental disorder or issue exists later in their life.
This version also better serves younger patients rather than simply adults in many ways. The team of authors and mental health professionals worked closely with parents and diagnostic homes to provide a far more advanced and precise criteria for diagnosing children. The DSM-V has vastly improved upon providing signs and symptoms to look for at home so that parents, friends, school employees, etc., have a better guideline for knowing when it is time to seek out professional help. Though you should be aware that a mental health diagnosis should only be completed by a psychologist. Guidance counselors, school nurses, religious and spiritual advisors, mental health support group leaders, etc. are not qualified to make mental health diagnoses unless they are a qualified psychologist. All others are excellent individuals to include in the support system of an individual with mental health issues and an excellent place to start conversations. However, they are not qualified to make an official diagnosis or to prescribe the necessary medications many individuals require who have treatable mental health issues.
The DSM-V offers suggestions on signs and symptoms to look for in a variety of mental health issues for young people including autism spectrum disorder, ADD, ADHD, PTSD, learning disorders, and eating disorders. It outlines other types of mental health issues including self-harm, suicidal thoughts, Internet gaming disorder, and more. It is critical to diagnose mental health issues in children and young adults as early as possible. This is for both the health and safety of the child and because they are in a constant state of change for so many of their early years, making diagnosis vastly more important to allow relatively normal development to continue. Once a diagnosis is complete, the young person will likely pursue a combination of behavioral therapy, medication, and support groups, all depending on what is called for in their particular case. Some young people may not require medication; however, all young people with mental health issues will require a lot of support, often for the rest of their lives.
What are the Signs of a Mental Health Issue?
Identify the Signs
The earlier mental health issues can be diagnosed, the better. Whether you’re thinking of yourself, your child, or a friend, figuring it out while still in high school means that students have a chance to get a handle on their mental health before they have to deal with it alone in college. Some people will not manifest mental health issues until college, whereas others experience extreme pressures in their life or underlying mental health disorders in their teens. Regardless, you and your loved ones must be aware of what to look for so that you can seek help.
Many people will experience similar signs and symptoms of different types of mental health issues. A few highly noticeable signs to look out for are self-harm, developing an eating disorder, or alcohol or drug dependency. Other people will suffer from anxiety and depression with symptoms of shifting mood and appetite. These are highly dangerous as they can lead to suicide. Drugs and alcohol abuse can also lead to more extreme symptoms of anxiety and depression, even if they were originally turned to in order to alleviate those symptoms. If you or someone you know are abusing drugs or alcohol, are self-harming, have an eating disorder, or experience extreme mood swings, these could be signs of greater mental health disorders.
Young people are just as likely as older adults to self-medicate in ways that they feel are within their control rather than to ask for help or admit they are struggling. Friends and family should always try to provide an environment that is free from judgment and allow them to feel safe to express their feelings without ridicule or embarrassment. If you cannot find this support at home or amongst your friends, find a place where you can feel safe to express yourself in a productive and healthy way.
You might experience other signs and symptoms of potential mental health issues. Keep in mind that mental health issues can arise at any time in your life. However, most people experience the first signs and symptoms before the age of 25. You might find yourself pulling away from friends and family or activities and interests you previously enjoyed. You might find yourself sleeping far more than the standard 8 hours a night. It may be impossible for you to get out of bed or to attend an event or party with a lot of people. People who have difficulty concentrating or sitting still may have undiagnosed ADD or ADHD. All of these signs and symptoms could be representative of a more significant mental health concern and you should at least consider asking a professional for their opinion.
Depression is an equal opportunity offender. It’s just as likely to affect someone from an affluent family as someone from a less-affluent family. Whether you’re in high school or college, you will always have resources at your school for help with depression. Both levels of education typically offer free and confidential counseling, which is an excellent place to begin. And you’ll find that you aren’t alone. Most college campuses, and some high schools, have support groups for depression and every other type of mental health issue you can imagine. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text START to 741741 for immediate assistance.
Below are some more resources you can look to for assistance:
ULifeline has sections on how to help a friend, facts about a wide range of resources for all types of mental health concerns, an area for learning ways to receive help yourself, and even a free and fast anonymous, online self-evaluator to determine whether or not it is time to seek assistance.
- Active Minds
Active Minds is a mental health organization available on over 800 college campuses reaching more than 600,000 students each year. The group focuses on all aspects of mental health.
- Seize the Awkward
Seize the Awkward provides entertaining video tutorials, ways to start a conversation, downloadable toolkits, and more. They also have a crisis text line. Simply text SEIZE to 741741.
- Set To Go
Set To Go is dedicated to high school students and college students with mental health concerns. You can seek assistance with social and emotional well-being, tips for staying healthy, and learn the best ways to adjust to college life.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has a dedicated program for young adults called OK2TALK. The program offers unique guides, tutorials, and information designed specifically for younger people.
Signs of Depression
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, over 17 million adults and 2.3 million adolescents suffer at least one depressive episode each year. Depression is medically classified as a mood disorder causing consistent feelings of sadness for at least two weeks, as well as a temporary loss of interest in most aspects in life you typically find enjoyable such as exercise, going out, or even school.
People with depression cannot simply will depression to go away, it’s not a weakness or a sensation of being down in the dumps over an emotional situation. Depression is far more extreme. In many cases, you might not even be able to get out of bed. The diagnosis of depression indicates that it is negatively affecting your personal and/or school life, and even your work if you have a job.
Many causes of depression for high schoolers and college students are unique from those of adults with more life experience. In some instances, depression may stem from new pressures in life such as failing to live up to you or your parents’ expectations, feeling homesick, not sleeping enough, eating poorly, not exercising, or spending too much time on social media. Students, both teens and young adults, also struggle with learning about finances and relationships for the first time. However, depression can be triggered by any number of factors including biochemistry, genetics, low self-esteem, and environmental aspects such as being a victim of abuse, violence, poverty, or neglect. Those who experienced some of these as children may be at higher risk of depression in high school, college, or later in life.
It is difficult to hide the signs and symptoms of depression, such as:
- Loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy
- Feeling hopeless, empty, tearful, or sad
- Unwarranted frustration, anger, or irritability
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Drastic changes in appetite
- Lack of energy and focus
- Declining grades
- Physical issues that are unexplainable
- Fixating on past failures
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- Thoughts of suicide, death, or suicide attempts
If you ever have suicidal thoughts or fear a loved one has thoughts of suicide, it is critical that you call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-TALK (8255). It operates at all hours of every day, and it exists for both individuals with suicidal thoughts and those who are worried about a loved one.
For those of you who are depressed or fear a loved one might be depressed, it is also highly imperative to get them help, as depression can lead one down a dark path quite quickly. If your symptoms do not go away after a few days and persist for a week or more, it’s time to seek assistance. Asking for help might be one of the bravest and most difficult challenges of your life. However, once you do seek out help, your life will improve drastically.
Many of the top depression organizations for teens and young adults offer anonymous, online self-assessments, as well as unlimited information and guides on the best ways to proceed and where to find help near you. You might also consider talking to someone close to you whom you trust explicitly. If you are spiritual or religious, you could confide in one of your advisors or the pastor of a local church. They are often trained in basic counseling and can tell you when it’s time to find a professional.
The best action to take at this point is to seek out a medical professional who is qualified and trained in working with teens and young adults with depression. You can even use telemedicine to speak with doctors online so that it is more conducive to your schedule. Just remember that you are far from the only one in your school with depression. The difference is that those who seek help will have a far greater chance at success in life over those who do nothing. Be bold and brave, go seek help.
Anxiety is the most common type of mental health struggle in young people. It can negatively affect your daily life and your future in countless ways. Many people find it difficult to engage in social activities, attend classes, and even communicate effectively with friends and family when they suffer from anxiety. It can also come and go quickly or last for days or weeks. Anxiety can lead to more serious mental health concerns, as well as risky behavior for those who try to self-medicate the symptoms. It is important to seek out help to learn the best ways to manage your anxiety in a healthy manner so that you can lead a long, productive, and healthy life.
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) works to promote positive mental health in children and young people. They utilize various proven methodologies such as research, education, and advocacy.
- Child Mind
Child Mind helps with all mental health issues for kids and young people of all ages. They even have dedicated sections for college students, families, and educators. The site also provides extensive knowledge regarding disorders and various guides.
- National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health focuses on scientific research and support of all mental illness communities. They seek feedback from the general public, as well as to work with providers, patients, and scientists.
- American College Health Association
The American College Health Association is dedicated to the overall health of college students. They offer resources on depression, social justice, advocacy, and human dignity.
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America aims to help individuals of all ages suffering from anxiety and depression through prevention and treatment. They also support efforts to discover cures for various mental health disorders.
Signs of Anxiety
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America released data stating that roughly 40 million adults suffer from some form of an anxiety disorder. This makes anxiety the most common mental health issue in the US. It is important to note that anxiety is not the same as depression; however, it can lead to many of the same negative consequences and symptoms. People with an anxiety disorder may experience overwhelming feelings of worry, fear, terror, and panic regarding standard, everyday occurrences on a regular basis. Such feelings can disrupt your daily life as you attempt to control them, perhaps by avoiding situations or places that might trigger such feelings.
The root cause of anxiety disorders is still highly speculated at this time. They can occur in childhood and last a lifetime. It is believed that, many times, life experience plays a vital role in triggering anxiety disorders, such as traumatic events. It is also believed that genetics play a role and that anxiety may be a result of an underlying and possibly greater health concern. Anxiety has been linked to a number of medical issues such as respiratory disorders, diabetes, heart disease, alcohol withdrawal, drug misuse, tumors, and more. It is also possible that anxiety can be a side effect of medication. However, in younger people, it is often more likely a result of a traumatic experience, genetics, and/or stress. It’s important to note that your personality, drugs and alcohol, and additional mental health issues can also contribute to anxiety.
The common signs and symptoms of anxiety will vary from person to person. However, most symptoms and signs will be similar and include:
- Increased heart rate
- Only able to focus on the existing worry
- Feeling nervous, tense, weak, tired, or restless
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sweating or trembling
- GI issues
- Inability to control feelings of worry
- Rapid breathing
- Impending sense of panic, doom, or danger
- Avoidance behavior toward things that trigger anxiety
Your life will improve significantly once you seek out assistance. If your anxiety is disrupting any part of your life, it’s time to get help. The earlier you seek assistance the better your life will be in the long term. To begin, you should stop using drugs or alcohol if you participate in the consumption of either. It will only make your symptoms worse and can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.
It’s also important to stay physically active, be social, and surround yourself with caring, positive people. In addition to taking the self-care steps mentioned, you need to speak with a medical professional. You can speak with your physician or make an appointment with a therapist. Both are excellent places to start.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young people. If you ever have any thoughts of suicide, you should seek help immediately. Such thoughts may occur for a number of reasons including family pressure to succeed, a humiliating life experience, bullying, depression, and more. You are far from being alone in having these thoughts; however, most people cannot properly heal without assistance. Reach out to someone you trust as a first step and go from there. You can also always call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-TALK or text HOME to 741741 in the US for free and confidential text messaging crisis assistance at all hours of the day and night.
Below you will find more resources:
- The Jed Foundation
The Jed Foundation is dedicated to suicide prevention in teens and young adults. They work with both individuals and schools to develop mental health improvement programs, as well as suicide and substance abuse prevention programs.
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center offers extensive resources regarding suicide prevention for individuals of all ages. This particular organization provides a wealth of information on their website including webinars, current events, feature information, and more.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is dedicated to suicide prevention in young people between the ages of 10 and 24 but anyone can call at any time. They offer online tools and resources, live chat, a crisis center location finder, and options for individuals who speak Spanish and those hard of hearing and deaf.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention provides an engaging site for individuals looking to prevent suicide, those who wish to make a difference on their own, and others who want to start a local chapter. You can even listen to stories online regarding people’s personal experiences with suicide and the organization.
- National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health offers immediate assistance during a mental health crisis. They also assist with finding treatment programs, health care providers, mental health studies, and more.
- Treatment Advocacy Center
The Treatment Advocacy Center offers facts and warning signs of suicide risk. They aim to eliminate any stigma associated with mental health issues, as well as to ensure that everyone can easily access support through laws and educating policymakers.
Signs of Suicide
People commit suicide for a wide array of reasons. It is often the direct result of a particularly stressful situation in their life that they feel they can no longer face, or because of which they feel they have no reason to continue living. Everyone needs to be aware of the signs and symptoms of suicide so that they can save their own life or the life of another.
Even when you believe there is no other way to resolve the issues in your life than to pursue suicide, it is critical to understand that you have many other options to ease the pain and suffering you are feeling and that many more people love and care for you than you might realize. The simple act of understanding the cause of suicidal thoughts and tendencies can help make sure you get the right assistance when you most need it.
The primary source of suicidal thoughts is when you face life situations that seem overwhelming. Such scenarios make it incomprehensible to fathom a situation where life will improve or a way that will allow a person to cope and move on. Individuals in these situations become incapable of seeing outside of, or past, the existing crisis situation.
As a result, some people feel taking their life is the only way forward. However, this is far from the reality, and you are far from the only person who struggles with difficult life experiences. In fact, these thoughts are common enough that anyone with a phone has access to 24/7 hotlines, treatment centers designated for suicide prevention, anonymous meetings, and much more to help you get through the difficult times as best you can.
In some cases, genetics may be the source of suicidal behavior and thoughts. Some people are more at risk than others including those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, those with military experience, those in social isolation, those with substance abuse issues, financial issues, legal problems, mental illness, medical conditions, who have been through a bad breakup, experienced unsupportive family life, and more. Young people often attempt suicide because of family conflict, physical or sexual abuse, drug and alcohol misuse, medical issues, physical impairments, pregnancy, bullying, depression, or sexual orientation confusion.
It is important to emphasize that depression is far from the only contributing factor to suicide.
Whether you fear you may be suicidal, or you know someone who may be at risk, saving a life may come down to knowing the signs, such as:
- Blanket suicide statements: “I wish I were dead” or “I’m going to kill myself”
- Stockpiling pills or buying a gun
- Self-isolation and withdrawal from social activities
- Mood swings
- Preoccupation with violence, death, or dying
- Feelings of being trapped or hopeless
- Change in sleeping or eating patterns
- Using drugs or alcohol more than usual
- Risky behavior
- Saying goodbye
- Personality changes
- Giving away belongings
The warning signs will vary with each person, and sometimes the warning signs are not obvious. It is important to remain in close contact with anyone you feel might be at risk. If you feel you might be at risk, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) any time of the day or night. If you have any of the signs or symptoms of suicide ideation, go see a doctor, reach out to friends or family, call a spiritual or religious advisor, or go to your school counselor. Everyone needs help sometimes. It takes great courage and strength to recognize this and to pursue the help you need. It is an admirable and brave action to seek help, not a sign of weakness!
Signs of Self-Injury
Self-injury, or self-harm, is far different from suicide and suicide attempts. The act of self-injury is not to kill oneself, but rather to simply injure one’s own body intentionally, often as a way to experience relief from frustration, emotional pain, or intense anger. It’s a coping mechanism that some young people and adults use to alleviate tension or stress which is meant to result in a sense of calm. However, many people who self-injure quickly experience feelings of guilt and shame, which results in the return of emotional struggles.
Again, the intent of self-injury is typically not to kill oneself; however, mistakes can be made during a self-harm incident which can lead to unintended death. Each individual will choose a different way to harm themselves for relief including cutting, scratching, burning, carving skin, self-hitting, skin piercing, and inserting objects below the skin’s surface. Most people choose to self-injure specific parts of the body such as arms, legs, or front torso. The injuries from self-harm can be difficult to detect, as they often perform the acts in private and on areas typically not exposed to public viewing.
It’s believed that the cause of self-injury is derived from the inability to manage emotions and poor coping skills. The exact reasons for self-harm varies from person to person. For some, it provides relief from anxiety, distress, stress, depression, or painful feelings. For others, it is a way to express their emotions outwardly rather than to bottle them up. It could even be a reaction to what they believe to be personal failings or faults.
Teenagers and young adults are most at risk for self-injury as the practice usually begins during preteen and teen years. Certain life aspects put young people more at risk such as loneliness, conflicts with parents, peer pressure, friends who self-injure, abuse, neglect, mental health issues, and the use of alcohol or drugs.
Some signs of self-injury are more subtle than others and they can include:
- Emotional and behavioral instability
- Unpredictability and impulsivity
- Presence of sharp objects
- Long sleeves and pants in summer
- Reporting of accidental injury
- Bite marks, scratches, and cuts
- Challenges with interpersonal relationships
- Loneliness, anger, panic, rejection, self-hatred, confused sexuality, and guilt
The act of self-harm is always a sign that it’s time to find support. Self-injury is a coping mechanism and a result of much larger issues that are not being addressed in a healthy and productive manner. If you are self-harming, find someone you can trust with whom to speak. This could be anyone such as a teacher, professor, friend, parent, spiritual advisor, etc. You might feel scared, embarrassed, judged, ashamed, or guilty and this is perfectly natural. However, the moment you reach out to someone, the path to healing starts so that the rest of your life can begin.
Eating disorders can occur for a wide array of reasons and it’s important to note that they can occur in women, men, nonbinary, transgender, and other individuals. Everyone is vulnerable to the societal and cultural pressures of looking good. It’s seemingly impossible to avoid such pressures as they exist all around from embellished and photoshopped social media posts to advertising. Others might be genetically predisposed to these harmful behaviors. The good news is that support groups and organizations exist online and in-person to help guide you back to a healthy and attainable life perspective.
Here are some resources for those suffering from eating disorders:
- National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) - Men and Boys
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) - Men and Boys is dedicated specifically to boys and men who suffer from eating disorders. NEDA understands that men and boys make up one-third of all eating disorder cases and that they have unique needs and require different approaches.
- National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) - Student Life
NEDA - Student Life is fully dedicated to young people who suffer from eating disorders. The site offers a free, anonymous screening tool online to help determine people who need assistance.
- National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders offers helpline support, group treatment recommendations, a place to find grocery buddies, a recovery mentor, and more.
- National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) - The Body Project
NEDA also has another program called The Body Project. They offer dedicated facilitator training for high schoolers and college students, as well as workshops to reduce depression, body dissatisfaction, and build self-esteem.
- The Eating Disorder Foundation
The Eating Disorder Foundation is a free, non-clinical center in Colorado. It is one of the very few that is available to everyone, regardless of insurance, weight, sexual identity, income, etc.
Signs of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders relate to the eating habits and behaviors of individuals that negatively impact one’s emotions, health, and ability to execute basic life functions and skills.
There are a wide variety of eating disorders, such as:
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Bulimia Nervosa
- Binge-eating Disorder
- Rumination Disorder
- Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder
Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating are the most common types of eating disorders. Nearly all of these disorders place an unhealthy amount of focus on food, body shape, and weight. This leads to the development of dangerous eating practices, malnutrition, and health issues, including heart and digestive issues, disease, and problems with the mouth, teeth, and bones. Teenagers and young adults are most susceptible to developing an unhealthy relationship with food and eating for a variety of reasons.
It is believed that eating disorders are directly related to genetics, biology, psychological health, and emotional health. The exact cause remains unclear, but it is likely a combination of factors. It may also be associated with underlying mental illnesses, as well as cultural and environmental aspects. Certain people are considered to be at a higher risk than others including people with low self-esteem, impulsive behavior, perfectionism, difficult relationships, pressure from family and friends, and stress.
It is important to note that people with eating disorders typically start out taking one step at a time toward an eating disorder, no one intends to develop these disorders. Over time, a one-time event or diet evolves into a greater and greater problem. In many instances, the individual starts out simply by trying to improve their appearance. The reasons for wanting to improve their image of themselves is the trigger that leads to an eating disorder.
Be sure you know the signs. Whether you are worried you might have a problem, or you are concerned for a loved one, the best place to begin is to know the signs, including:
- Skipping meals
- Making excuses for lack of eating
- Excessive concentration on exercising or healthy eating
- Not eating what others make
- Loss of tooth enamel
- Using the toilet during meals
- Social withdrawal
- Eating excessively or excessive amounts of high-fat foods or sweets
- Secret eating
- Revealing guilt, shame, depression, or disgust regarding eating habits
Signs and symptoms will be different for everyone and vary based on the type of eating disorder. The most important aspect is to get help for yourself or for a loved one you feel may be struggling as it can be incredibly challenging to overcome on your own. Many sufferers do not believe they have an issue. Medical help is the best way to return to a healthy relationship with food and body image. A visit to your physician is a great place to start. They might recommend a variety of treatments including behavioral therapy, seeing a nutritionist, or even rehabilitation. There is no shame in needing help to live a better life and to become the best version of yourself both inside and out.
Drug and/or Alcohol Use
Drug and alcohol use among teens and young adults is seemingly an American tradition. Unfortunately, the line between having fun on occasion and addiction can be crossed before you even realize it has become a problem. Substance use disorder can have serious long-term consequences on your future including STDs, pregnancy, car accidents, bad relationships, and jail. If you want to stop drinking, using drugs, or both, it is possible to seek assistance from any number of reputable and anonymous organizations.
Below you’ll find some options of where you can turn to for help:
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers community events, awareness days, raising awareness campaigns, collaborations, and more. They focus on recovery services, treatment, and substance use disorder prevention for people of all ages.
- Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine
The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine is committed to the recovery and prevention of substance use in teens and young adults. All resources are catered to young people including peer networks, online resources, treatment locators, support groups, and advocacy options.
Youth.gov was developed by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs for young people who are at risk of substance use, abuse, and dependency. They provide warning signs, screenings, assessments, prevention tips, and much more.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) offers specific resources for teens and young adults including a search for treatment centers, tips on recognizing substance use disorder, costs, resources in Spanish, and more.
- Addiction Center
The Addiction Center is dedicated to young adults in need of inpatient treatment. You can search for addiction treatments and rehab programs specifically designed for young people across the country. And they offer a wealth of information regarding alcohol, drug treatment options, therapies, paying for rehab, pre- and post-rehab preparation, etc.
- American Addiction Centers
American Addiction Centers has one of the biggest databases featuring information on anything and everything regarding addiction, rehabilitation, treatment, aftercare, and more. They also provide sources dedicated to young adults.
Signs of Drug and/or Alcohol Use
Drug addiction, also known as substance use disorder includes the use of alcohol, nicotine, prescription drugs, medication, or illicit drugs. When someone is addicted to these substances, they cannot control the use of them as it is a disease that directly impacts your behavior and brain function. The addiction can prevent you from being able to stop the act, despite understanding the consequences to your physical health and life.
It is important to note that drug addiction can begin at any age for any number of reasons. Teenagers and young adults are particularly vulnerable due to peer pressure and the fact the brain is not yet fully developed until the age of 25. It is also important to understand that some drugs are more addictive, and can cause addiction more quickly, than others. Over time, individuals will also build up a tolerance, making the addiction more dangerous as it takes more and more of the substance to feel the same effects or to ward off withdrawal symptoms.
The cause of drug and alcohol addiction is similar to other mental health issues in that many factors could contribute to the addiction such as genetics, family beliefs, lack of family involvement, early use, additional underlying mental health issues, and peer pressure. Some people are simply genetically predisposed to addiction. This makes it particularly dangerous for these individuals to experiment with drugs and alcohol. However, though certain people are more at risk than others, everyone is at risk. Addictive substances can change the way your brain works, creating a need for the substance whether you are genetically predisposed or not.
When one becomes dependent on drugs or alcohol, it can change the course of your life. You could develop a series of complications that make life far more challenging than it needs to be such as developing health problems, STDs if a lack of inhibition leads to risky sex, suicide, health problems, relationship issues, poor grades, lack of motivation, legal issues, and more. All of these consequences can impact your future potential.
Be sure you know the signs, including:
- Intense urges for the substance
- Using daily or several times a day
- Securing a regular supply
- Consuming larger quantities than recommended
- Inability to stop
- Behaving differently under the influence
- Participating in risky behavior
- Avoiding obligations and responsibilities
- Onset of withdrawal symptoms
- Can only think about the next time you can use the substance
- Loss of interest in activities that you use to enjoy
- Change of appearance
Each substance will pose a unique set of signs and symptoms and some people will be better at hiding it than others. If you believe that you or someone you care about has a problem with drugs or alcohol, it’s important to get help. Some people are not comfortable confiding in family members and that is perfectly fine. You can always speak with school counselors, reach out to student drug and alcohol abuse organizations, attend 12-step meetings, reach out to a spiritual or religious advisor, or make an appointment with a psychologist or doctor.
It is also a good idea to call anonymous addiction hotlines or chat online with reputable recovery organizations. If you are truly ready for change, the best plan is to participate in a recovery program. You have plenty of options in recovery that will work with your schedule and that are designed specifically for younger people. If you are concerned about a loved one, try to communicate with and support them the best you can. In some cases, an intervention may be the best option. Drug addiction is a disease and it can be difficult to overcome. However, the right support and treatment will transform your trajectory in life.
Signs of ADHD
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects millions of teens and young adults. ADHD is a chronic condition that lasts your entire life. However, with the right treatment and proper diagnosis, your life can improve drastically. If you have undiagnosed ADHD, you may have a far more difficult time with daily life than those who do not have it. You might find basic activities challenging, such as paying attention in class and controlling behavior impulses. The good news is that symptoms often diminish as you age and you can learn strategies that will let you work with your mental health disorder to live a highly successful life. The earlier you are diagnosed, the easier your life will be in the long term.
The origins and causes of ADHD are uncertain. It is believed that certain factors play a crucial role such as genetics, environmental toxins, issues with the central nervous system during development, premature birth, additional mental health disorders, and mothers who smoke or use drugs and alcohol during pregnancy. At this moment in time, sugar consumption has not been proven to have a direct impact on the development of ADHD.
If you have ADHD, you are more susceptible to certain challenges in life including difficulty learning, an increase in injury or accidents, poor self-esteem, difficulty in social situations, and greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse. It’s also possible that you’ll have additional mental health disorders coexisting alongside your ADHD, making your life even more challenging.
Because ADHD has become an established mental health disorder, experts are always finetuning the ability to diagnose young people based on specific symptoms, such as:
- Inability to pay attention or focus
- Hyperactive and impulsive behavior
- Appearance of not listening
- Difficulty following instructions
- Poor organizational skills
- Easily distracted
- Becoming sidetracked quickly
- Forgetting what their told
- Trouble waiting their turn
- Cannot sit still, always in constant motion
- Frequent interruption or intrusion on others
It is important to note that symptoms typically begin before the age of 12, and the symptoms will range between mild to severe. At a young age, it can be difficult to diagnose whether or not a child has a developmental behavior issue or ADHD. Either way, these symptoms and signs indicate that it’s time to seek assistance.
If you are an individual who is concerned that you might have undiagnosed ADHD, or a family member concerned about a loved one, schedule an appointment with your physician or pediatrician. ADHD is not an issue that simply goes away on its own. Medical treatment, and possibly behavioral therapy, will be critical to making improvements and learning the best ways to manage the disorder. An initial medical evaluation is the first step in a long life of good health, happiness, and productivity.
Finding Mental Health Support
Many colleges and universities offer free mental health counseling with extended hours and emergency after-hour numbers. It’s also possible that your health insurance, whether you are covered by your parents or you have insurance through other means, will cover at least some mental health services as provided by psychologists at no cost.
Insurance also covers additional mental health services including gym memberships, behavioral therapy, rehab, and wellness programs. You can find many of these resources on campus for free, as well. And, generally speaking, psychologists also offer a few affordable solutions for college students. Such as free sessions from psychology/counseling students in training.
Many college campuses now offer AA, also referred to as a 12-Step Program, on-campus. You can also find AA and NA meetings off-campus if you prefer a bit more anonymity. These programs offer a safe and private place to share your struggles with individuals who are going through the same difficulties with drugs and alcohol.
It is possible to reach out to religious or spiritual advisors, as well. Many college students remain in touch with their religious and spiritual upbringing. You can speak with a local advisor to help guide you through the beginning stages of seeking assistance for alcohol or drug dependency. Keep in mind that most people will require a proper treatment program to overcome their addiction as it is a disease and quite difficult to kick on your own.
One of the best ways to help with anxiety and depression is to eat right, exercise, and practice mindfulness. These simple life changes can have dramatic effects in a highly positive manner for many students with mental health issues. Colleges and universities today take mental health seriously and offer many helpful solutions for taking care of your mind and body. Be sure to check with your counselor and reach out to specific organizations if you need more assistance. Your mental health is incredibly important. Sometimes, you have to be brave and ask for help if you want to make changes in your life for the better.