2017 Children’s Mental Health Report

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Conclusion

Adolescence is a high-risk/high-reward period. We know some basic facts:

  • The brain develops until 25, and adolescence is a period of risk and potential defined by the interaction of heredity, environment and biology.
  • Lifelong mental health and substance disorders often have onset in adolescence. Adolescents can do lasting harm to the still-developing brain.
  • We can help adolescents minimize risk and nurture their vast potential. Adolescence is an opportunity to prevent lifelong impairment by intervening with evidence-based treatments and educational approaches.

How can we help? Our understanding of brain development shows us why adolescence is a risk period for stress, emotional strain and mental health disorders. It informs interventions to help teens. It provides evidence we can mitigate lifelong mental health and substance disorders if we support teens through this period.

Critically, it allows us to talk to teens without blame or shame, speak honestly about our concerns, and help them be partners in taking care of themselves. To help, we’ve developed a toolkit parents can use to talk about this report. We identify key points and provide suggestions on how to have the conversation.

Parents can’t help adolescents all alone, and we must also work on reaching young people where they spend most of their time: in middle school, high school, and college. This report has highlighted promising school-based interventions and mental health literacy programs, and we must take the next step: identifying and implementing effective mental health education on a meaningfully large scale.

To this end, the Child Mind Institute is bringing together a blue-ribbon panel to explore an evidence-based mental health curriculum that will help teens make good decisions, challenges to implementation, and solutions. Members of the panel will hail from diverse fields relevant to adolescent health — education, school administration, patient and teen advocacy, child and adolescent psychiatry and psychology, pediatrics, developmental neuroscience, social work, epidemiology, drug counseling.

The aim of committee will be to identify concrete goals for mental health education curricula and propose common sense, effective solutions to the biggest barrier to adolescent mental health: silence.