Mental health conditions are common among teens and young adults. 50% of all lifetime mental illnesses develop by age 14, and 75% develop by age 24. A mental health condition isn't your fault or your family's fault — these conditions develop for complicated reasons that researchers are only just starting to understand. But we do know a lot about how you can live well with a mental health condition. You have the power to improve your mental health. And it starts with one conversation.
Experiencing mental health symptoms can be scary and confusing. That’s why speaking up and asking for help is a sign of strength. It can be hard to know what to say, but start with something like, “I’m not feeling right. I think I need help. Can I talk to you about it?” Whether you reach out to a parent, coach, teacher or religious leader, a trusted adult can help you figure out what’s next. Mental health services and supports are available and the earlier you access them, the better.
Just remember that you don’t need to go at it alone. Involve others who can provide added support. Try to find someone who might be understanding of your situation or be able to help. However, if it’s an emergency, you should call 911 and get an authority figure. Here are some people you may consider reaching out to:
- Friends and family
- School teachers or counselors
- Faith-based leaders
You might find some of the information on our Teens and Young Adults Page helpful. NAMI also offers multiple programs such as NAMI on Campus, which are student-led, student-run mental health clubs on college campuses, and NAMI Ending the Silence, a 50-minute presentation designed for middle and high school students that includes warning signs, facts and statistics and how to get help for themselves or a friend. You might also consider sharing your mental health story on our NAMI OK2TALK Tumblr blog, a moderated virtual space for teens and young adults to share their experiences with mental illness. Other helpful organizations:
- Jed Foundation empowers teens and young adults with the skills and support to grow into (emotionally) healthy adults. It offers an online resource center on how to help someone who may be at risk for self-harm or suicide to move toward emotional well-being. It also partners with high schools, colleges & communities to promote mental health programs.
- Center for Young Women’s Health and Young Men’s Health, each website provides a series of guides on emotional health, including on test anxiety, depression, bullying, and eating disorders, including extensive FAQs under the Emotional Health section of each website covering topics as varied as “Alcoholic parents,” “Breakups,” “Cliques,” “Consent,” “Test Anxiety” and more.
- TheTribe Wellness Community offers online peer support groups for teens facing mental health challenges and/or difficult family dynamics.
If you’re in crisis, the following youth-oriented supports may offer the much-needed lifeline you need:
- Boys Town National Hotline: (800) 448-3000 / boystown.org is a 24-hour crisis line for teens and families in need of help: suicide prevention line, parents can call about parenting issues, kids can call about anything - provides referrals and problem-solving; also provides suicide prevention line, referrals, and problem-solving (calls answered by trained crisis counselors).
- Trevor Lifeline: (866) 488-7386; text line START to 678-678 / thetrevorproject.org is a 24/7 hotline, text-line, and online chat; Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ youth ages 13-24, as well as free online educational modules.
- Thursday’s Child: (800) 872-5437 / thursdayschild.org provides 24-hour emergency help and information for youths in crisis. Helps children, teens and young adults faced with bullying, eating disorders, self-harm, sexual assault, thoughts of suicide, trafficking, abuse, and abduction and addiction. Provides extensive information on its website and operates a 24/7 youth hotline.
- Covenant House/National Runaway Safeline: (800) 786-2929 / 1800runaway.org is a 24-hour confidential crisis and resource line for at-risk teens considering running away from home; serves as an intermediary for teenagers (13-21) and parents, offers resources for parents of children who have run away, free bus transport home, runaway education; also offers message boards and Live Chat options.
- National Safe Place: (502) 635-3660 / nationalsafeplace.org is a 24-hour service that provides information to help and support youth in need; additionally, it designates youth-friendly organizations as “Safe Place” locations through its “Find a Safe Place Locator” for teens in a crisis. Text SAFE at your current location to 69866 for help via text (24hrs).