Skip to main content.

Why are teens suffering, and what can be done about their mental health?

Why are teens suffering, and what can be done about their mental health?

Picture of Gisela Telis

In the U.S. in 2014, an estimated 2.8 million adolescents aged 12-17 had at least one episode of major depression. Just over one in five 13- to 18-year-olds has a seriously debilitating mental illness of any kind. Less than half report receiving any treatment, but nearly 17 percent say they have thought seriously about killing themselves.

These statistics, sourced from the National Institute of Mental Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, illustrate the widespread and growing mental health crisis among teens and youth.

I’ve been reporting almost exclusively on mental health since my Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism in 2011. In that time, I’ve met many people touched by this crisis: the suicide prevention specialist based in Phoenix whose office is overwhelmed by calls and visits from parents desperate to find help for their children. The young Native woman who bravely made her way through an addiction treatment program in Tucson, only to take her own life once she returned home to her reservation. The bereft mother waging war to bring mental health care to her rural community. They are witnesses to and casualties of what one former school counselor described to me as an epidemic of trauma, loss and pain.

Young people are suffering in unprecedented numbers, and that’s a problem that deserves dedicated, thorough and sensitive investigation.

My project for the 2016 National Fellowship will explore the personal, biological, social and economic factors that shape mental health and illness among young people. It will result in a 60- to 90-minute documentary and a series of shorter “mini-documentaries” to be produced and aired as we craft the longer-form piece. The project will also include a community engagement component designed to educate the public about the mental health issues affecting young people and to connect those in need with critical resources.

My project will feature interviews with health care providers, educators, mental health researchers, and policymakers — all the folks who can help unravel the scope of this crisis and speak to its causes and potential solutions. But its most powerful voices will be those of teens themselves. I plan to follow several young people and their families as they navigate the mental health care system, to chronicle their struggles and successes as they seek their own way to wellness.

[Photo by martinak15 via Flickr.]

Leave A Comment

Announcements

Join us to hear from two of the best on the COVID beat: Helen Branswell of STAT and Katherine J. Wu of The Atlantic will share their strategies and tips for staying ahead of an ever-changing story. Sign-up here!

Our California Fellowship supports reporters in the Golden State pursuing ambitious projects on overlooked health and health equity issues.

CONNECT WITH THE COMMUNITY

Follow Us

Facebook


Twitter

CHJ Icon
ReportingHealth