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Mental Wellness for Teens

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 youth live with a mental health condition and half of all lifetime cases begin by age 14.

What Teens Can Do

  • Understand that mental health conditions are not your fault.
  • Ask for help. You will be amazed at the response you get by simply asking for support.
  • Know that you are not alone. There are others going through similar things that you are.
  • Visit to talk with other teens and mental health professionals.

How to Help a Friend

  • If you believe your friend is experiencing a crisis, share your observations with them and enlist the support of someone you trust. This could be someone such as another friend, teacher or coach. Remember to prioritize your own personal mental wellbeing in the process.
  • Realize that you cannot force anyone to get help. As a friend, you can be there to listen and offer support.
  • Reach out to them regularly and make an effort to include your friend in your social plans.
  • Be sure to not use judgmental or dismissive language that may make them feel like their problems don’t matter or aren’t real.

What Parents Can Do

  • Know the signs and symptoms. New and ritualistic behaviors can often be a sign something is distressing your teen. Other common signs include withdrawing from social situations, sudden weight changes and changes in sleeping patterns.
  • Listen first and don’t try to solve the problem. Be aware that the teenage years are when youth develop adequate coping skills to manage stressful events. These are important skills to build and will help them build long-lasting resilience throughout their lives.
  • Don’t hesitate to contact a medical professional. Teenagers may not have developed adequate coping tools to appropriately manage life’s stressful events such as a breakup, rejection, a poor grade, or disappointment in athletics or other school activities. Episodes of extreme sadness, anxiety, and anger should not last more than a few days. If they do last longer, be sure to contact your child’s pediatrician or school counselor for support and advice.
  • Acknowledge your child’s concerns or worries instead of dismissing them as insignificant. The act of acknowledgement is more powerful than confirming “everything will be okay”.

What Schools Can Do

  • Training school personnel to help students navigate mental health challenges can have a very powerful outcome. NAMI Parents & Teachers as Allies (PTA) opens the door for schools to make a difference. California schools can contact 916-567-0163 to learn how to schedule a training.
  • Consider training staff, family members, and teens on suicide prevention.  Santa Clara County Suicide Prevention has a variety of training programs that can be completed online or in-person offered at no cost.  
  • Explore implementing “Challenge Day,” an empowering and transformational workshop for teens.  This 1-day program is designed to help reduce teasing, bullying, and stereotyping, teaches tools for peaceful conflict resolution and how to express emotions in a healthy way. It provides a safe, open, and caring space for people to connect in a nurturing and fun environment, and helps students realize they are not alone in the issues they face. Visit for more information.
  • Become familiar with the resources that already exist at your child’s school. Ask for a meeting with the school’s assigned therapist or nurse. These conversations can help familiarize the staff with your child’s needs.


  • If you or someone you know needs helps now, you should immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or call 911.
  • To find resources in your community contact the National Alliance for Mental Illness Helpline at 800-950-NAMI (6264) or The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET.
  • El Camino Hospital’s ASPIRE Program offers intensive mental health programs for pre-teens and teens in middle school and high school. To learn if ASPIRE is right for your child call, 650-988-8468 or visit
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