Helping Teen Mental Health Issues Transition to Healthy Adulthood

Moving from adolescence to adulthood is not an easy task. Imagine if you were faced with moving out, finding a job, discovering your occupation, and beginning college all at the same time. Doing this at any age would be a daunting task. Furthermore, doing this during adolescence, while the brain is still developing and while emotional, psychological, and physical changes are underway can be even more intimidating.

Mental Health Issues

Now, add to this the challenge of having mental health issues, such as depression, teen bipolar disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder, and the task of becoming an adult is further complicated. For this reason there are organizations that are specifically in touch with these challenges. And that provides levels of support to help a teen make such a transition.

According to the National Institute of Mental Illness (NAMI), over 60 percent of young adults with a serious mental illness are unable to complete high school, lowering their chances for occupational success. They are also more prone to use substances. Adolescents who have a psychological illness, especially those without a diagnosis, are often looking for relief from challenging emotions or for a way to better function in school, at home, or at work. As a result, they use drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism or as a way to self-medicate.

Trying to Meet Life Goals

Teens who have been identified as having mental health issues, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, eating disorders, and other mental illnesses, were asked to identify the areas of life in which they could use the most assistance. According to NAMI, they responded with:

  • Finishing school and beginning training in a career
  • Finding a job that provides them with a monthly income.
  • Learning independent living skills that facilitate an easy transition to adulthood
  • Finding a safe and comfortable home they can afford
  • Learning coping mechanisms to better manage family concerns.

Focusing on Helping 

In order to meet these requests, more and more teen treatment centers and other adolescent social organizations are focusing on the following for those teens who suffer from mental health issues:

  • Engaging teens in a relationship with an adult who is responsible and who can facilitate healthy discussions about that teen’s future.
  • Tailoring services to be accessible to parents, teachers, and other adults who play a significant role in that teen’s life.
  • Respecting the fact that the stage of adolescence is one in which a teen is discovering his or her sense of self, allowing for personal choice, and their need to find their own way.
  • Ensuring a wide network of support from family, friends, and community mentors.
  • Strengthening skills that are necessary in adulthood including confidence and resourcefulness.
  • Helping a teen establish goals and the skills they need to reach those goals.

Teenagers are reaching for their independence, their uniqueness, and the role they will play in life. However, doing this in the midst of managing a mental illness, along with spending time with other confused teenagers at school, family conflicts, and the lingering need to hang onto their childhood is the chaos some teens must find their way through. Not to mention the presence of drugs, the pressure of new romantic relationships, and maintaining good grades!


Having recognized the nearly insurmountable challenge they face, community, state, and federal agencies are lending their support. Teens don’t have to face the challenge alone!


NAMI. (June, 2007). On the Move: Helping Young Adults with Serious Mental Health Needs Transition into Adulthood. Retrieved on March 20, 2014 from