Mental Health Awareness Month by Anoa Hawkins

May is known as Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout this month, the aim is to reduce the stigma surrounding obtaining treatment for mental health ailments. With increased awareness, the expectation is that more people will seek the necessary care for their mental health to enhance their overall well-being.  A population that is greatly affected by this stigma is children and adolescents. Studies indicate that in the United States, approximately 20% of young people aged 3-17 experience mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral disorders  [2].  By 14 years old, half of all mental health conditions are typically led by non-specific psychosocial disturbances, which can evolve into substantial mental health conditions responsible for 45% of the international burden of disease from the age span of 0 to 25 [1]. To invest in the future, we must first invest in the children of today. Here are a few tips and aspects for investing in adolescents’ mental health: 

Associated Factors 

A plethora of determinants exist for adolescents experiencing mental health difficulties. Essential factors identified as risks for mental health involve relationships with family and peers, quality of home life, and living conditions that are engulfed in violence, abuse, harsh parenting, bullying, etc. [5]. Other contributing factors to a decline in mental health challenges and stressors incorporate identity exploration and pressure to conform to society, such as gender norms, peers, and social media. These elements affect adolescents’ perceptions of the future and their realities [5]. The listed associated factors can deter adolescents and their families from seeking treatment due to the lack of quality services and the stigma and discrimination of mental health support.

Early Intervention

Providing adequate and timely mediation and support for early detection of mental health difficulties can substantially decrease the severity, interval, and recurrence of mental illness symptoms and their associated social disadvantage [6]. Early intervention is imperative regarding adolescents’ mental health. If interventions are taken early, adolescents are more likely to effectively utilize the skills and tools in adulthood, manage symptoms, and advocate for their needs, promoting a prosperous, healthy lifestyle. 

Warning Signs 

Studies revealed an adolescent might need assistance improving their mental health if they [7]: 

  • Lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy
  • Have low energy
  • Have difficulty sleeping or eating
  • Spend more time alone and avoid social activities
  • Excessively exercise, diet, and binge eating
  • Harm themselves (e.g., burning or cutting their skin)
  • Use alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs
  • Engage in risky or destructive behavior
  • Have thoughts of suicide
  • Think their mind is being controlled or is out of control or hear things other people cannot hear

As summer approaches, many children and adolescents will lose their daily structures, routines, and appropriate social interactions and activities that schools often provide. Adolescents may negatively cope for the lack of social isolation and routines, which can cause undesirable effects on their mental health. 

 Three ways to improve Mental health:  

  1. Utilize your resources to take adequate care of your mind and body [2]:
    • Create and adhere to a schedule, eat a balanced diet, stay physically active, get quality sleep, stay hydrated, and spend time outside. 
    • Avoid or limit substances that can stimulate lower moods, making you feel tired or depressed, such as alcohol, marijuana, vaping, and tobacco.  
  2. Take a break from Screens [2]: 
  • In this age of technology, it is so easy for us to spend excessive amounts of time utilizing screens. Mental health consequences, such as anxiety or depression and low self-esteem, can be a result of continuously comparing oneself to others [3,4].
  • For adolescents, this can cause decreased motivation and a decline in academic performance [3,4].
  • To guide your technology use, ask yourself: Is my screen time taking away from me being present now in healthy offline activities, such as exercising, hanging out with friends, reading, or sleeping? What online activity are you mainly consuming, and how does it make you feel? What motivates you to be online- Do you feel like you have to me [3]?

3.Learn & Practice Techniques to manage stress and other challenging emotions [3]

  1. Try to recognize situations that may be emotionally challenging for you and devise strategies to manage those emotions. 
  2. Utilize a stress ball. 
  3. Follow a guided meditation or yoga audio. 
  4. Practice positive affirmations and self-gratitude. 

Though these tips are not treatments that can fully cure one’s mental health, these are daily strategies that can significantly reduce symptoms of mental health ailments. If you feel unsure or you are struggling with your mental health, remember it is encouraged to seek help from a trusted adult/ person or clinician. Taking care of one’s mental health is just as important as one’s physical health in order to live a fulfilling life.

By: Anoa Hawkins, counseling associate 

  1. Colizzi M, Lasalvia A, Ruggeri M. Prevention and early intervention in youth mental health: is it time for a multidisciplinary and trans-diagnostic model for care? Int J Ment Health Syst. 2020 Mar 24;14:23. Doi: 10.1186/s13033-020-00356-9. PMID: 32226481; PMCID: PMC7092613. 
  2. Office of the Surgeon General (OSG). Protecting Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory [Internet]. Washington (DC): US Department of Health and Human Services; 2021. WE CAN TAKE ACTION. Available from:
  3. How Does Social Media Affect Teens? | Anxiety Treatment ID (
  4. National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report [Internet]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2022 Oct. CHILD AND ADOLESCENT MENTAL HEALTH. Available from:

5. The mental health of adolescents (who. int) 

6. Early intervention | Queensland Mental Health Commission (

7. Mental Health for Adolescents | HHS Office of Population Affairs