Skip to main content

Supporting youth mental health

By Sarah Odendahl

Sad girl sitting on floor, leaning on couch with hands over heart
In spring of 2008, I was a junior in high school struggling with the fallout from a recent breakup.  One day I walked into the band rehearsal room - a class I shared with my ex-boyfriend and about 50 other teens - feeling particularly upset. When I saw my ex walk in, suddenly it felt like all the oxygen left my body. I couldn’t catch my breath, the warm-up noises were overwhelming, and I didn’t know what to do. A good friend pulled me from the room and sat on the floor of the hallway with me until I could get a deep breath again.

Looking back on it now, that breakup doesn’t elicit much emotional response, but to teenage Sarah it cut incredibly deep. I was coping the best I could, and learning social-emotional skills along the way, but I didn’t have the language to address what I later learned was the first of several panic attacks I would suffer that spring.

In 2010, a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found that one in five youth in the U.S. will experience a mental health disorder. The CDC reported that four out of five youth mental health and suicide variables worsened from 2009 to 2019. Although we are only beginning to gather data, an early review of mental health data during the pandemic found “children and adolescents were found to experience more depressive and anxious symptoms than reported prepandemic rates.”

Youth need mental health support, but most of us are not doctors or psychologists. What can we do to support youth mental health?
Mental health disorders are complex medical concerns, but we can all do our part to help support youth to find their best level of mental wellbeing. What other ways are you supporting youth mental health?

-- Sarah Odendahl, Extension educator

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

Print Friendly and PDF