For adolescents heading back to middle school, junior high, or high school, the experience can be filled with excitement as well as anxiety. For youth struggling with behavioral and emotional disorders, the personal challenges of dealing with school demands, social issues, teachers, and parents or guardians can lead to outbursts and meltdowns. They may not possess the coping skills necessary for dealing with these challenges.

One in five youth under age 18 will experience a diagnosable mental health problem each year. We encourage those who work with youth to be aware of the risk factors and early warning signs for mental health disorders.

  • Difficulties at home, school, or with friends.
  • Withdrawal from others.
  • Behaviors that are different from peers.
  • Feeling empty, sad, hopeless, or worthless.
  • Feeling overly worried or fearful.
  • Unable to do school work.
  • Problems concentrating, thinking, or remembering.
  • Sudden, drastic decline in school performance.
  • Unexplained changes in thinking, speech, or writing.
  • Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.
  • Irritability or restlessness.
  • Loss of appetite or overeating.
  • Changes in energy levels or sleep patterns.
  • Hearing sounds or their name being called, or seeing things, that others do not.
  • Sudden personality changes.
  • Thoughts or plans to kill or hurt self or another person.


Recognizing and treating mental health problems early can help prevent the development of a more serious illness in the future. It is important to address symptoms early. Youth need people in their lives whom they can trust and who will listen to and support them. Start a non-judgmental conversation about what you have noticed and encourage them to seek the help of a mental health professional.