Although mental health has come into the public eye much more of late, there is still a huge population of people from which it is concealed — our youth.  Mental health in adolescents is a widespread problem that is overlooked and that needs to be addressed. We need to make mental health help accessible and stigma free for adolescents.  

Kids are often bullied, for instance, and this creates serious mental health issues; yet they usually do not get the help that they need to deal with this. Not only does this cause problems in their everyday life, but it will carry over into their adult life. Between 25 and 33 percent of adolescents forgo much needed care for mental health issues, and many others lack access to it (NCCP). This number encompasses all illnesses, from mild ADHD to very severe cases of PTSD and more. That is a large group of young people not getting much-needed help; nor do they know the techniques for treatment available to them. Lacking access to these vital resources will impact their entire lives. For example, it could prompt them to drop out of school, it could increase the odds they’ll be involved with the juvenile justice system; it could lead to their becoming involved in unhealthy sexual relationships; and it could lead to substance abuse.

Young people will shape society’s future, so we need  them to be healthy and happy. They need to have healthy minds and bodies. Without access to mental health services, though, this will not be the case for many. We need to spread the world about the impact of mental illness on those at very young ages, and about how they can seek and receive effective help. Talk to your local legislators, hold a gathering, spread the word! Also, start with yourself; don’t be ashamed to talk to caring people about this, and then expand this conversation to more people around you. As Michelle Obama said, “At the root of this dilemma is the way we view mental health in this country. Whether an illness affects your heart, your leg or your brain, it’s still an illness, and there should be no distinction.” Get involved to make sure that our youth — and our future — is taken care of.

— Emma Cosgrove, Student, Harwood Union High School, Moretown, VT