Mental Health and Substance Abuse Literacy: Introduction


The teen years are a time of significant physical growth and maturation. Complex brain and hormone changes are occurring during these years as teens move toward adulthood. By in large, these are years of robust physical health, but, the physical, hormonal and personal changes that are the hallmark of this period sometimes result in emotional stresses. In fact, many of those who will develop emotional illnesses will show the first signs of difficulty or even have first episodes of illness during the teen or young adult years.

As a result, it is very valuable for young people and their families to understand the basics of mental health and substance problems that may emerge during this time. As young people prepare for life in college (or if not attending college, life as an adult), they will have more responsibility to care for their own health. This makes it all the more important that they have a sense of when they may be having a problem which requires support or professional care and how to reach out for help.

In this section we have tried to give a clear and simple overview of the factors that protect young people from emotional and substance problems such as having strong life skills, coping skills and a positive sense of connectedness with family and friends. We also provide a brief review of mental health problems and suggest how you or your child might know something is wrong. Finally, we provide some suggestions about how to get support and care or how someone might help a friend should a problem emerge.  Remember, it is not so important for you or your child to know what the nature of the problem is. What is important is recognizing if and when a problem may be arising and knowing how to get help!

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