Mental illness

Mental health statistics estimated that one in five adults in the U.S. lives with mental illness. Mental illness is categorized into a broad category, ranging from mild to severe, any mental illness (AMI) and serious mental illness (SMI). AMI encompasses all recognized mental illnesses, SMI is a small yet severe subset of AMI.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health,  AMI and SMI are defined as follow:

  • Any mental illness (AMI) is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. AMI can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment.
  • Serious mental illness (SMI) is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.

How prevalent is mental illness among adolescents?

The United States population is 329,367,409, adolescents (ages 10-19) represent 13%(almost 42 million) of this population. Females represent 49% of the 42 million and 51% of men. Now let’s look at the prevalence of …mental illness in this group.

Mental health disorders in adolescence include those related to anxiety, depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity, and eating.

Mental Health Statistics

Anxiety disorders

Anxiety is the reaction to situations perceived as stressful or dangerous. It’s an emotion that causes increased alertness, fear, unwanted thoughts, and physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate,  and stomach upset. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias. According to the World Health Organization, anxiety is the eighth leading cause of illness.

Anxiety occurs in approximately 32 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds.

Depression disorders

Depression is a serious mood disorder that causes persistent sadness, helpless, hopefulness and worthlessness. It affects how you feel, the way you behave and think. Depression disorders include depressive disorder, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the ninth leading cause of illness and disability among all adolescents.

Depression occurs in approximately 13 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds.

Attention deficit- hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is characterized by a persistent inability to focus on activities/tasks, uncontrol impulsiveness, and hyperactivity.

ADHD occurs in approximately 9% of 13- to 18 -years olds.

Eating disorders

Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder is characterized by disturbed eating habits, either insufficient or extreme eating.

These disorders occur in 3% of 13-to 18-years olds.

Mental health determinants

Adolescence is a crucial period of transition between childhood and adulthood. It is when they are developing and maintaining emotional habits important for their well being. Multiple factors determine the mental health of adolescence. The more risk factor they are exposed to, the greater the impact on their mental health. From the statistics above, mental illness is significantly prevalent in adolescents. Factors that contribute to their mental health other than the normal stress of being in school and pressure to conform to peers are a sexual violation, discrimination, living conditions, stigma, lack of access to quality support and services. Chronic illness, socio-economic problems, negligence, lack of love from parents or no bonding are other factors that contribute to adolescents’ mental health.


According to a report on PBS, in 2017 alone, there were 47% more suicides among people aged 15-to 19 than in the year 2000. It’s paramount that we prioritize mental illness just as we would prioritize any other illness, one suicide is way too many to ignore. In 2017, suicide is ranked as the second-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24, more than 6,200 suicides.

Warning signs of suicide in adolescents include:

  • Expressing hopelessness for the future.
  • Threatening to kill oneself.
  • Starting to use a drug or alcohol as an aid to sleep.
  • Preparing for death, giving away properties, writing goodbye letters.
  • Talking as no one cares.
  • Seeking out weapons, pills.

Mental Health Statistics

Signs of depression in adolescents
  • Withdrawal from friends.
  • Stays awake all night and sleep during the day
  • Use of alcohol or drugs.
  • A sudden drop in grades.
  • Sadness, anxiety, irritability.
  • Rebellious behavior.
  • Difficulty making decisions.
  • Rapid weight loss or gain.
  • Irresponsible behaviors.
  • Memory loss.
  • Preoccupation with death.
  • Apathy.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Complain of physical pain such as stomach aches, headaches, fatigue.
How can parents alleviate teen depression?
  • Allow your teen to make mistakes.
  • Give your teen a breathing room, don’t expect he/she to do exactly as you said.
  • Replace shame and punishment with positive reinforcement for good behavior when disciplining your teen. Shame can make your teen feel worthless or fearful of learning.
  • Avoid trying to relive your youth through your teen’s activities and experiences.
  • Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Try avoiding to tell your teen what to do.
  • Focus on listening and not lecturing, resist passing judgment once your teen starts to talk.
  • Make face-time a priority, this means no distraction whatsoever.
  • Encourage him to go out with friends or invite friends over.
  • Suggest activities he once enjoyed, such as sports, fishing, art, music, after-school activities.
  • Make sure your teen is getting the nutrients he needs for optimum brain health and mood support, things like healthy fat, high protein and avoid sugar consumption.
  • Know when to seek professional help.
  • Always seek your teen input when seeking treatments.
  • Explore your options, what treatments are available for your teen, which ones meet his needs.

Side note: I am not a mental health professional. This information is to provide you with basic knowledge about mental health. Mental illness affects everyone differently, so pay close attention to your teen and notice changes in him and seek for professional help.


Have you ever cared for a teen dealing with mental illness? How was your experience? What worked and what did not?

What would you like to learn more about? Comment below and I will get to work?





Enter your email to subscribe to my latest updates in mental health.


Raina is a psychology student who understands the importance of caring for mental health. She blogs about depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, men and mental health and parenting kids with ADHD.


  1. That is a sad but awesome post! People need to be made more aware of mental illness, and thanks to bloggers like you, it gives you a platform to touch people’s lives and give them information on how to deal with it. My older son has dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts for years, but finally was evaluated and is on medication, and is a totally different person now. Thank for sharing and God Bless!

    • Denise,

      Thanks for your kind words! Many people suffer from mental illness, but due to the stigma associated with mental illness, they don’t seek treatment.
      I’m glad your son has been diagnosed and is on medication. By his grace, your son will continue to get better.

  2. Chris Kosto | Reply

    Excellent work Raina! Perfect formatting, including relevant stats and studies, easy-to-understand language. One of the best mental illness posts I have ever read, keep up the good work!

    • Chris,

      I appreciate your kinds words. It feels incredible to hear this from someone I look up to in the blogging world. Thankyou.

  3. Its sad to know that so many people and children have some form of mental illness and with a busy lifestyle like today its so difficult sometimes to sit down and relax and communicate. However there is always help out there the matter must just be adressed corrctly 🙂

    • Leana,

      Yes, it’s sad to come to the realization of how common mental illness is in the US. People are suffering in silence due to the stigma associated with mental illness, and I think that is what we need to work on and provide resources for schools to support kids.

  4. This is such an informative but sad post. This hits home way too much for me sadly. One of our neighborhood kids, 12 years old committed suicide a few years back, then one of our teachers’ son did just two years ago. It seems like this is becoming more and more frequent with our young adults and children and it breaks my heart. I fear that my children will have suicidal thoughts, I think it’s my number one fear as a mother.

    • Felicia,

      As a mother myself, I can relate to your worry for your kids. I am sorry that you had to go through the grief of such young kids. I think the stigma associated with mental illness makes it difficult for young adults and children to seek help.

  5. This is such an eye opening post. I have two young kids right now and suicide is one of my top fears for them. I loved some of the tips you had for alleviating teen depression. This is such important work you are doing.

    • Kristen,

      I appreciate your kind words! As a mother of three young kids myself, I understand your fear for them.

  6. Raina
    This post saddens me so much and hits close to home. I’ve known 2 children who
    Committed suicide the past few years. I wish there was more help for kids especially at school. It seems like some authoritative figures brush it off or doesn’t take it seriously until it’s too late.

    • Felicia,

      I am sorry you had to go through that. I believe schools could do more to help kids but are not able to do much sometimes due to limited resources. I hope one day we will be able to say we did what needs to done to save the kids.

  7. More than ever, we need awareness of what mental health is all about. Thank you for a comprehensive post about mental illnesses. It is a delicate topic and most people are not even aware of what they are going through because they find it hard to talk about it or approach someone for help, even if the symptoms are all there. Which is probably why we hear of celebrities who seem happy suddenly end their lives–then later it comes out that they were depressed or going through some mental health issue they did not articulate. Glad you wrote about this, Raina.

    • Vidya,

      I agree with you, even if the symptoms are all there, it’s difficult to articulate what is going on in the brain of a depressed person. When I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I denied it all. I was always at the top of my game, I had it all together. Even after the fibromyalgia diagnosis, I kept telling myself I got it, I just need to make some life changes and I will be fine. That was not the case. Chronic pain is no fun, and having to deal with pain on a daily basis is not present. This was when the reality of my fibromyalgia diagnosis sunk in and things got worse from there one. If I learned anything at all, it’s that no one is immune to mental illness.

  8. I wish mental illness got as much attention as physical illness. It’s just as important and the reason I studied psychology at university. I really wanted to help kids and teens navigate through life while keeping their mental health in check.

    • Nicole,

      I am also working on my bachelor’s in psychology. I agree with you that mental illness should matter as much as physical illness. Kids and teens are mostly in need of mental health support. It’s at this ages that their brain is still developing and they are creating their identity, I wish I could do more than talking about mental illness.

  9. I have worked with many youth who have been through terribly tough times. The toll it takes on them is immense. The fact that you are planning this for your career is an admirable thing.

    • Elise,

      Thank you for your kind words! It’s sad to read the statistics and not think about doing something.

  10. The suicide rate in my area is so very high among teens. It is so sad to see and hear about on a regular basis. I talk to my two boys (13 and 10) about this regularly. It is such a hard topic but one that is so important to discuss. Thank you for this great post!

    • Jody,

      It took me a while to start talking to my kids about this as I was still thinking they were too young. But then I realized it’s never too early to have this important yet sad discussion with them, prevention is better than cure.

  11. Thanks for the brief but insightful breakdown. There are so many different kinds of mental illnesses and disorders (and people often can’t even differentiate between the two); so much more awareness is definitely needed for so many reasons! Those who are suffering need to be able to get help without feeling stigmatised.

    • Sheryl,
      Yes, awareness is the key to reducing the stigma associated with mental health. Thanks for reading!

  12. Thanks for the brief but insightful breakdown. There are so many different kinds of mental illnesses and disorders (and people often can’t even differentiate between the two); so much more awareness is definitely needed for so many reasons! Those who are suffering need to be able to get help without feeling stigmatised.

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.