FHS Wellness Center » Teen Mental Health

Teen Mental Health

Just like we know that taking care of our physical health is important to keep our bodies strong and healthy, it is also important to take care of our mental health. Mental Health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being, which means it affects how we think, feel, and act.  It also helps determine how we handle stress in our lives, relate to others, and what choices we make. Below is information on common challenges that teens can experience. For more information on each particular subject, click the image associated to be directed to the direct reference.




Anxiety is a natural human reaction that involves mind and body. It serves an important basic survival function: Anxiety is an alarm system that is activated whenever a person perceives danger or threat.

When the body and mind react to danger or threat, a person feels physical sensations of anxiety — things like a faster heartbeat and breathing, tense muscles, sweaty palms, a queasy stomach, and trembling hands or legs. These sensations are part of the body's fight-flight response. They are caused by a rush of adrenaline and other chemicals that prepare the body to make a quick getaway from danger. They can be mild or extreme.

What to Do

Getting the problem treated can help a person feel like himself or herself again — relaxed and ready for the good things in life. Someone who might be dealing with an anxiety disorder should:

  • Tell a parent or other adult about physical sensations, worries, or fears. Because anxiety disorders don't go away unless they are treated, it's important to tell someone who can help. If a parent doesn't seem to understand right away, talk to a school counselor, religious leader, or other trusted adult.

  • Get a checkup. See a doctor to make sure there are no physical conditions that could be causing symptoms.

  • Work with a mental health professional. Ask a doctor, nurse, or school counselor for a referral to someone who treats anxiety problems. Finding out what's causing the symptoms can be a great relief.

  • Get regular exercise, good nutrition, and sleep. These provide your body and brain with the right fuel and time to recharge.


Depression is more than occasionally feeling blue, sad, or down in the dumps, though. Depression is a strong mood involving sadness, discouragement, despair, or hopelessness that lasts for weeks, months, or even longer.

Depression affects more than a person's mood. It affects thinking, too. It interferes with the ability to notice or enjoy the good things in life. Depression drains the energy, motivation, and concentration a person needs for normal activities. 


What Helps Depression Get Better?

Depression can get better with the right attention and care — sometimes more easily than a person thinks. But if it's not treated, things can stay bad or get worse. That's why people who are depressed shouldn't wait and hope it will go away on its own. 

If you think you might be depressed, talk to a parent or other adult about getting the right help. The right help can mean doing all of these things:

Get a Medical Checkup

A doctor can check for any health conditions that might cause symptoms of depression.

Talk to a Counselor

Having meetings with a counselor or therapist is called talk therapy. Talk therapy works by helping people to:

  • understand their emotions, put feelings into words, and feel understood and supported

  • build the confidence to deal with life's struggles 

  • work out problems they face

  • change negative thinking patterns that are part of depression

  • increase self-esteem and become more self-accepting

  • increase their positive emotions and feel happier

Overcoming depression might include talk therapy, medication, or both. A therapist might also recommend daily exercise, exposure to daylight, or better ways of eating. A therapist might teach relaxation skills to help someone get a good night's sleep.  

Get Support

Many people find that it helps to open up to parents or other adults they trust. Simply saying something like, "I've been feeling really down lately and I think I'm depressed" can be a good way to begin the discussion.

If a parent or family member can't help, turn to your school counselor, school nurse, or a helpline.

Let friends and other people who care about you offer their support. They can:

  • listen and talk, showing that they understand what you're feeling

  • remind you that things can get better, and that they are there for you through the downs and ups

  • help you see the things that are already good about your life, even when it's hard for you to notice

  • keep you company and do enjoyable or relaxing things with you

  • give you honest compliments and help you find things to laugh or smile about

Help Yourself

Try these simple actions. They can have a powerful effect on mood and help with depression:

  • eat healthy foods

  • get the right amount of sleep

  • walk, play, or do something else to get exercise every day

  • take time to relax

  • take time to notice the good things about life, no matter how small

Focusing on positive emotions and being with positive people can help, too. Do yoga, dance, and find creative self-expression through art, music, or journaling. Daily exercise, meditation, daylight, and positive emotions all can affect the brain's activity in ways that restore mood and well-being.

Image by Ben White


Grief is the reaction we have in response to a death or loss. Grief can affect our body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

People might notice or show grief in several ways:

  • Physical reactions: These might be things like changes in appetite or sleep, an upset stomach, tight chest, crying, tense muscles, trouble relaxing, low energy, restlessness, or trouble concentrating.

  • Frequent thoughts: These may be happy memories of the person who died, worries or regrets, or thoughts of what life will be like without the person.

  • Strong emotions: For example, sadness, anger, guilt, despair, relief, love, or hope.

  • Spiritual reactions: This might mean finding strength in faith, questioning religious beliefs, or discovering spiritual meaning and connections.

Helping Yourself

If you're grieving, it can help to express your feelings and get support, take care of yourself, and find meaning in the experience.

Express Feelings and Find Support

Take a moment to notice how you've been feeling and reacting. Try to put it into words. Write about what you're feeling and the ways you're reacting to grief. Notice how it feels to think about and write about your experience.

Think of someone you can share your feelings with, someone who will listen and understand. Find time to talk to that person about what you're going through and how the loss is affecting you. Notice how you feel after sharing and talking.

We can learn a lot from the people in our lives. Even when you don't feel like talking, it can help just to be with others who also loved the person who died. When family and friends get together, it helps people feel less isolated in the first days and weeks of their grief. Being with others helps you, and your presence — and words — can support them, too.

Find Meaning

We can learn from loss and difficult experiences. Think about what you've discovered about yourself, about others, or about life as a result of going through this loss. To help get started, you can try writing down answers to these questions:

  • What did the person mean to you?

  • What did you learn from him or her?

  • What good has come from this difficult experience?

  • What have you learned about yourself, other people, or life?

  • Are there things you appreciate more?

  • Who are the people who have been there for you? Were they the people you expected? What have you learned about them?

  • In what ways have you grown or matured based on this experience?

Take Care of Yourself

The loss of someone close to you can be stressful. Take care of yourself in small but important ways:

  • Sleep. Sleep is healing for both body and mind, but grief can disrupt sleep patterns. Focus on building healthy sleep habits, like going to bed at the same time each night or establishing bedtime routines like doing gentle yoga or breathing exercises.

  • Exercise can help your mood. It may be hard to get motivated when you're grieving, so modify your usual routine if you need to. Even a gentle walk outdoors can help to reset your perspective on things.

  • Eat right. You may feel like skipping meals or you may not feel hungry. Your body still needs nutritious foods, though. Avoid overeating, loading up on junk foods, or using alcohol to "soothe" your grief.

Woman on Window Sill


Substance Use Among Teens

The guide highlights the most commonly used substances and the extent of the problem, such as

  • Alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco are substances most commonly used by adolescents.1

  • By 12th grade, about two-thirds of students have tried alcohol.1

  • About half of 9th through 12th grade students reported ever having used marijuana.2

  • About 4 in 10 9th through 12th grade students reported having tried cigarettes.3

  • Among 12th graders, close to 2 in 10 reported using prescription medicine without a prescription.1

Although it is illegal for people under 21 years of age to drink alcohol, the findings show that people from 12 to 20 years of age consume about one-tenth of all alcohol consumed in the United States.

Risks of Substance Use

The guide also highlights the risks of substance use among teens. Substance use can do the following:

  • Affect the growth and development of teens, especially brain development.

  • Occur more frequently with other risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex and dangerous driving.

  • Contribute to the development of adult health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders.

Finally, the earlier teens start using substances, the greater their chances of continuing to use substances and developing substance use problems later in life. When teens begin drinking at an early age, they increase the chance of becoming addicted to or continuing to abuse substances later in life.



Stress is a response to pressure or threat. Under stress we may feel tense, nervous, or on edge. The stress response is physical, too. Stress triggers a surge of a hormone called adrenaline that temporarily affects the nervous system. As a result, when you're nervous or stressed you might feel your heartbeat or breathing get faster, your palms get sweaty, or your knees get shaky.

Keep Stress Under Control

Here are some things that can help keep stress under control:

  • Take a stand against overscheduling. If you're feeling stretched, consider cutting out an activity or two, choosing just the ones that are most important to you.

  • Be realistic. Don't try to be perfect — no one is. Don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself. If you need help with something like schoolwork or dealing with a loss, ask for it.

  • Get a good night's sleep. Getting enough sleep helps keep your body and mind in top shape, making you better equipped to deal with any negative stressors. Because the biological "sleep clock" shifts during adolescence, many teens prefer staying up a little later at night and sleeping a little later in the morning. But if you stay up late and still need to get up early for school, you may not get all the hours of sleep you need.

  • Learn to relax. The body's natural antidote to stress is called the relaxation response. It's the opposite of stress, and is a feeling of well-being and calm. You can activate the relaxation response simply by relaxing. Learn and practice easy breathing exercises, then use them when you're caught up in stressful situations. 

  • Make time for fun. Build time into your schedule for activities you enjoy — read a good book, play with your pet, laugh, do a hobby, make art or music, spend time with positive people, or be in nature.

  • Treat your body well. Get regular exercise and eat well to help your body function at its best. When you're stressed out, it's easy to eat on the run or eat junk food. But under stressful conditions, you need good nutrition more than ever.

  • Find the upside. Your outlook, attitude, and thoughts influence the way you see things. Is your cup half full or half empty? A healthy dose of optimism can help you make the best of stressful circumstances — and even recognize something you've learned from the situation.

  • Solve the little problems. Take action to solve problems that crop up. For example, if you're stressed out over homework, size up the situation and figure out ways to handle it better.

  • Build positive relationships. Knowing that there are people who believe in us boosts our ability to deal with challenges. Ask for help and support when you need it. Share what you're going through — including the good things that are happening.



What Are the Warning Signs of Suicide?

Suicide among teens often happens after a stressful life event, such as problems at school, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a major family conflict.

Teens who are thinking about suicide might:

  • talk about suicide or death in general

  • give hints that they might not be around anymore

  • talk about feeling hopeless or feeling guilty

  • pull away from friends or family

  • write songs, poems, or letters about death, separation, and loss

  • start giving away treasured possessions to siblings or friends

  • lose the desire to take part in favorite things or activities

  • have trouble concentrating or thinking clearly

  • have changes in eating or sleeping habits

  • engage in risk-taking behaviors

  • lose interest in school or sports

If you're worried about your teen or another child, take it seriously and talk to them right away. You also can turn to these resources for 24/7 help:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or text CONNECT to 741741. You also can contact them through their website.

  • Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQ community: 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678678. You can also contact them through their website.


These toll-free lines are staffed by people who are trained to help. The calls are confidential. If necessary, call 911 for immediate help.




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Teen dating violence (TDV), also called, “dating violence”, affects millions of young people in the United States.  Dating violence can take place in person, online, or through technology. It is a type of intimate partner violence that can include the following types of behavior:

  • Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.

  • Sexual violence is forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act and or sexual touching when the partner does not or cannot consent. It also includes non-physical sexual behaviors like posting or sharing sexual pictures of a partner without their consent or sexting someone without their consent.

  • Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm a partner mentally or emotionally and/or exert control over a partner.

  • Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.

Teen dating violence has profound impact on lifelong health, opportunity, and well-being. Unhealthy relationships can start early and last a lifetime. The good news is violence is preventable and we can all help young people grow up violence-free.


Do Something: https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-teen-dating-violence

Love is Respect: https://www.loveisrespect.org/

National Safe Place: https://www.nationalsafeplace.org/teen-dating-violence

Youth.gov: https://youth.gov/youth-topics/teen-dating-violence
Is your relationship healthy? Take this quiz

Interface Children and Family Services: https://www.icfs.org/teen-dating/

Disclaimer: The following links are purely for educational purposes and are not intended as psychological interventions or as a substitute for psychological treatment. Fillmore Unified School District is not responsible for the content of any external web sites that are linked to this page. This information is provided as a public service and does not constitute an affiliation or a recommendation of any organization, application, or video listed.