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Mental Health Month and Prevention Week: Focus on Teen Behaviors and Warning Signs


May is Mental Health Month, and the third week in May is National Prevention Week, an annual health observance focused on raising awareness about the importance of substance use prevention and positive mental health. You can join online to view the live kickoff event for National Prevention Week on May 15, at 11:00 a.m. EDT.

National Prevention Week is timed to allow schools to raise awareness among students before the school year ends. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggests several topics to explore: prevention of youth tobacco use, prevention of underage drinking and alcohol misuse, prevention of suicide and promotion of mental health and wellness.

Mental health disorders most often begin early in life — 90 percent of people who develop a mental disorder show warning signs during their teen years. About 11 percent of youth between the ages of 9 and 17 having a major mental health disorder.


Among teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24, suicide is the third leading cause of death. An estimated 8 percent of high school students attempt suicide each year. Research has shown that early recognition, intervention, and treatment of mental disorders make a positive difference in a teen’s life.

Recognizing the difference between typical teen behavior and signs of potential mental health problems can be difficult. The APA Foundation’s Typical or Troubled?™ School Mental Health Education Program is aimed at helping school personnel identify whether a teen is experiencing the typical teenage “growing pains” or a real mental health problem and to help direct them to professional assistance if needed.

As part of its Mental Health Month awareness efforts, Mental Health America is focusing attention on recognizing habits and behaviors that increase the risk of developing or exacerbating mental illnesses, or could be signs of mental health problems themselves. These include risk factors such as risky sex, prescription drug misuse, internet addiction, excessive spending, marijuana use, and troublesome exercise patterns. Through an effort called “Risky Business,” Mental Health America is working to help people understand how certain seemingly common behaviors, particularly youth behaviors, are risk factors for, or indicators of mental health or substance use disorders.

Where’s the line between OK behavior and going too far? You can take Mental Health America’s What's Too Far?" quiz. Share your perceptions of when a behavior becomes risky and learn about the perceptions of others.


Mental Health America also offers online screenings for a number of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, PTSD, alcohol/substance use and more. There are also general screens for youth (age 11 to 17) and for parents of young children.

One of the best preventive actions you can take is ongoing attention and support for your mental health and well-being. For some practical tips on what you can do today, see 31 Tips to Boost Your Mental Health. If you’d like to get more involved or connect with local resources, check out Mental Health American local affiliates.




AnxietyDissociative DisordersADHDBipolar DisordersIntellectual DisabilitySleep DisordersDepressionAutismPatients and FamiliesHoarding DisorderGender DysphoriaAlzheimer’sOCDPersonality DisordersEating DisordersGambling DisorderSpecific Learning DisorderSomatic Symptom DisorderSchizophreniaPostpartum depressionAddictionPTSD


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