How to help teens with mental health

Young people need mental health support more than ever. Help us train teachers to provide early intervention in schools by supporting #Headucation2025.

If you are concerned about the mental health of a teenager in your care, you should consider

  • Speaking to the teen about how they feel
  • Asking a professional or mental health organisation for support

Why is mental health important for teenagers?

Teenagers with good mental health will generally have a positive sense of emotional and social wellbeing that allows them to build relationships, cope with difficulties in life, feel a sense of achievement and generally enjoy life. Teenagers with poor mental health risk struggling in their social life and schoolwork, while feeling hopeless about life and the future.

The state of teen mental health

50% of all mental health problems start by the age of 14 but there is an average 10-year delay between showing the first signs and getting appropriate treatment.

According to research, the most common reason young people had for not seeking support was ‘not feeling like their problem was bad enough’.

But how bad does it have to get before teenagers feel they deserve support?

25% of females and 10% of males aged 16-24 have reported instances of self-harm while suicide is one of the leading causes of death in 15-19-year-olds. It shouldn’t have to reach this point.

One of the biggest problems teens face when seeking mental health support is accessibility. Nearly 70% of teens would prefer to not have to go through a GP for mental health problems but only 50% are aware of other routes. When teenagers are referred to specialist mental health services such as CAMHS, they are often rejected or made to join a long waiting list as these services are massively overstretched.

We believe the key is early intervention. Children and teenagers spend much of their adolescent lives in education settings surrounded by teachers. Yet, with no mandatory or government-funded mental health training, many signs of mental health go unmissed or get mishandled by the school staff. By training teachers in the basics of mental health, they will be better equipped to spot the signs of mental health struggles in teens, support mental health problems in the classroom and signpost teens to alternative mental health resources besides the GP.

Signs of teen mental health problems

It can seem difficult to distinguish what is ‘normal’ behaviour for teens and what is a sign of a mental health challenge. But regardless of the cause, surely you should help anyone displaying signs of distress? Signs of mental health problems in teens can include:

  • Low mood or frequent tearfulness
  • Little enjoyment in activities
  • High irritability
  • Increased social isolation
  • Fixation on weight/size
  • Undereating or avoiding food altogether
  • Unexplained injuries e.g. cuts and bruises
  • Wearing long clothes all the time, even in hot weather
  • Excessive tiredness

For a full list of signs, visit NHS UK.

It can also be helpful to understand what puts teenagers at higher risk of developing a mental health condition.

How you can support teen mental health (without a GP)

Signpost to mental health charities

With youth mental health being such a big problem, there are several non-profit organisations and self-help resources set up to provide expert support and guidance when needed.


YoungMinds, a national young people’s mental health charity, has created a series of mental health guides. These are great resources for teenagers who want education or support around a wide range of mental health challenges including how to talk to friends about mental health, gender and mental health, and drugs.

The Mix

The Mix is a service that provides under 25’s with support and advice across many different areas. They have a great selection of mental health support resources including articles, a helpline and a chat service.

Reduce Stigma

By reducing stigma around mental health, you can encourage teens to seek help sooner and prevent their mental health from deteriorating further. Start conversations about mental health in classrooms, peer groups and families and share mental health stories from others. “We all have mental health” created by the Anna Freud Centre, is a great 5 minute animated video that tells the story of school children struggling with mental health.

Encourage them to talk

One of the first steps when managing mental health is to talk about it with someone. Make sure teens know they have someone to turn to whether that’s you, a friend, a school counsellor or online resources like the peer-support app Mee Too.

Educate yourself

The more you know, the more you can help. Access mental health training to expand your knowledge on common mental health conditions and how to support those struggling with them. Most courses are suitable for people in all situations including employers, school staff, parents and carers. MyTutor has a great guide to teen mental health for parents that is suitable for any adults working or interacting with young people.

Promote healthy habits

Many of the habits that keep us physically healthy also help to maintain our mental health. Plenty of sleep and regular exercise help to regulate our bodies and brains while sensible attitudes to diet and substances keep us from amplifying the effects of existing mental health symptoms.

Early intervention can not only reduce the impact of mental health on teens in the long term, but by reducing the number of young people in need of intense clinical support it can enable professional services to provide fast and efficient support for those who still need it.

Our #Headucation2025 campaign aims to train 150,000 teachers in the basics of mental health support by 2025 which will allow them to support 2.5 million children every year!

Right now, schools have to pay for mental health training themselves since it isn’t considered “mandatory” by the government – we want to provide as many fully-funded training sessions as possible. It costs £100 to train each teacher – help us raise money by donating, buying a product from our store or signing up for one of our training courses.

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