Published May 2022
May is National Adolescent Health Month (NAHM). During this observance, the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) is emphasizing the importance of building on young people’s strengths and potential, encouraging and supporting meaningful youth engagement in adolescent health activities, and highlighting key topics in adolescent health.
May is also Mental Health Awareness Month, and this past Saturday was National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. Mental health is an essential part of overall health. Providing youth the mental health services and support they need is critical to their well-being. Adolescents live in varied environments and face challenges that affect their mental health, such as social media influence, economic inequality, discrimination, and violence. The U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory calling for a swift and coordinated response to address the nation’s youth mental health crisis and the White House recently published a fact sheet and strategy on mental health. Supporting adolescents’ mental health can help to strengthen their resilience.
Many adolescents experience positive mental health, but nearly half of all adolescents have had a mental health disorder at some point in their lives. The CDC recently released data from the Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey highlighting the magnitude of the mental health and other challenges our nation’s youth faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. OPA has curated resources on mental health and well-being, including information on LGBTQI+ mental health, eating disorders, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and more.
Parents, caregivers, health care professionals, and other youth-serving adults can support adolescents by advising young people on social media use, helping youth navigate their emotions during the pandemic, and getting teens screened for common mental health disorders.
OPA’s Title X family planning clinics support youth mental health and well-being. In addition to sexual and reproductive health services, Title X clinics provide screening for mental health conditions, intimate partner violence, and smoking, alcohol, and drug use. Title X clinics provide a space that is friendly for youth to discuss their sexual health and family planning needs. Use the Title X clinic locator to find a clinic near you.
OPA’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program grantees also work to support adolescent mental health and well-being. For example, the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System has taken a lead role in addressing teen mental health needs through their Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Committee. This grantee has also worked closely with mental health partners to update their website with mental health information and craft a message that destigmatizes seeking help. Many TPP programs include positive youth development curricula that encourage young people to engage in their communities in constructive ways and build their strengths and potential. Some TPP programs specifically support youth who are homeless, living in foster care, or involved with the juvenile justice system.