Mental Health in Teens and Young Adults: A New Guide

Mental Health

The Child Mind Institute is a nonprofit dedicated to assisting adolescents struggling with mental health and learning disorders. The Center for Addiction is another vital organization—working to change society's understanding of and response to the disease of addiction. In January, both the Child Mind Institute and Center for Addiction merged with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. For those who are not familiar with the Partnership, it is a non-profit organization spearheading campaigns to prevent teenage drug and alcohol abuse in the United States.

Each organization, individually, plays a crucial role in helping children and young adults living either with mental illness, addiction, or co-occurring mental health disorders. Together, it is likely that the tripartite will affect even more change at this critical time in our history. Addiction, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and dual diagnosis plague millions of Americans.

Without proper evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery services the result is despair and premature death—families needlessly shattered. Sadly, the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society receive no special dispensation from diseases of the mind. An adolescent battling mental illness continues to do so in his or her adult years. On the upside, evidence-based treatments are available, and clinicians can help transform the lives of young people.

Substance Use and Mental Illness in Young People

Treating a mental health condition, on its own, is both complicated and challenging to manage. When a patient is experiencing comorbid disorders or dual diagnosis (i.e., more than one mental illness), proper diagnosis and treatment are even more demanding. It is vital that mental health professionals also have expertise in substance use conditions. Addiction medicine specialists must also have overlapping mental health expertise, according to Harold S. Koplewicz, M.D., President at the Child Mind Institute and Fred Muench, Ph. D., President at the Center for Addiction.

In a commentary appearing in the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids website, Dr. Koplewicz and Muench point out that one in five young people struggle with a mental illness. Moreover, there are millions of teens and young adults engaging in alcohol and drug misuse; studies indicate a 30 percent to 65 percent overlap between the groups mentioned above.

It is vital to acknowledge the above findings because when young people misuse mind-altering substances, it is often for self-medication. Simply put, mental illness like depression can precipitate addiction; and, the same is accurate in the opposite direction. Drugs and alcohol can significantly impact the developing brains of young people, potentially resulting in comorbid disorders.

A New Guide for Clinicians and Parents

Doctors Koplewicz and Muench point out, rightly, that parents are the first to notice changes in their kids and adult children. What’s more, they play a critical role in seeking out treatment and encouraging long-term recovery. Parents with concerns about their loved ones can find an invaluable amount of information in a new guide from the Child Mind Institute and Center for Addiction | Substance Use + Mental Health in Teens and Young Adults: Your Guide to Recognizing and Addressing Co-occurring Disorders.

This guide, a collaboration of the Child Mind Institute and Center on Addiction, which merged with Partnership for Drug-Free Kids in January 2019, provides information on common mental health disorders in young people (and the medications that are often used to treat these), tips on identifying substance misuse and steps to making informed decisions about evaluation and treatment for co-occurring disorders.

Substance Use + Mental Health in Teens and Young Adults Guide Highlights:

  • 30% – 45% of adolescents and young adults with mental health disorders have a co-occurring substance use disorder, and 65% or more of youth with substance use disorders also have a mental health disorder.
  • Untreated, co-occurring disorders increase risk for self-harm.
  • Thorough evaluation, diagnosis and treatment planning of co-occurring disorders requires a professional with expertise in both mental health and addiction.
  • Symptoms of substance misuse and mental health disorders mimic each other.
  • Mental health disorders often lead to “self-medication” with substances. Certain substances are often associated with specific disorders.
  • Parents are instrumental in encouraging treatment for their child or young adult and supporting a treatment program.
  • Integrated care — combining primary care, mental health and substance use services — for co-occurring disorders offers the best long-term prognosis.

PACE Residential and Outpatient Mental Health Program for Young Men

As a pioneer in mental health and dual diagnosis treatment services, our clients work with a team of master’s- and doctorate-level clinicians, psychiatrists, and clinical psychologists. Our staff of mental health professionals can identify the specific needs of each client and chart a path toward long-term recovery.

Please contact us today to learn more about our gender-specific mental health programs for young men. Our seasoned team can help you or a loved one manage mental health conditions and heal from trauma—setting you on a course to lasting recovery.

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