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Help end stigma and prioritize mental health for youth and young adults

The teen and young adult years are full of change as they explore who they are, become independent and navigate friendships, social media and plans for their future. It’s an exciting time of life and can also be very challenging. Teens today experience new stresses and worries about school, friends, family, their identity and more.

“Kids have a lot more going on in their lives than many may think.”

— Teen quote

Youth mental health is a crisis

Mental illnesses and poor mental health among teens are so common that in 2023 the CDC declared that youth are experiencing a mental health crisis.

About half of all people who experience a mental illness begin experiencing symptoms before the age of 14, but they often go unnoticed until years later.1

What we know about mental health in youth:

One in six youth aged 6-17 experience a mental illness each year1

One in 10 youth experience depression that severely impairs their ability to function at school, work and home.2

More than one in three high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic.3

Female teens are more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide compared to male teens.3

LGBTQ+ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than non-LGBTQ+ identifying teens.4

LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and over four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth.4

From the voice of teens

What teens want adults to know.
Teens told Make It OK that they tend to be more comfortable talking about mental health with their peers than with adults. Teens think adults aren’t as comfortable talking about mental health, so they hesitate to open up. Many teens described experiences seeking support from adults about their mental health only to be shut down, dismissed or not heard.

Adults — you are the gateway to youth feeling heard and getting the mental health support and care they want and deserve.

Youth are counting on adults to be a trusted support system so they feel safe and comfortable talking about their mental health. They need to be seen, heard and understood. They also need adults to be that bridge to getting them the mental health care they want, need and deserve.

Words matter

Below is what teens said they wish adults would say and not say when they open up to them about their mental health.

What to say:

  • “Your feelings are completely valid.”
  • “I didn’t know you felt that way. I’m sorry. How can I help?”
  • “I’m always here when you need me.”
  • “I’m listening.”
  • “I’m here to help, and if you need someone to listen, I’ll be there in any way possible.”
  • “I understand needing a break sometimes.”
  • “Thank you for sharing this with me; it helps me better understand what’s going on.”
  • “I see you.”
  • “I hear you.”

What not to say:

  • “Just breathe.”
  • “Grow up.”
  • “Go on a walk.”
  • “Put down your phone; that will help.”
  • “You’re lazy.”
  • “Quit being dramatic.”
  • “You are just seeking attention.”
  • “You have nothing to worry about; you only need to worry about school.”
  • “Just be thankful for what you have; this happens to everyone, and it’s normal.”

How you can help end mental health stigma and support youth

Find more resources for support

Explore lived experiences


  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2023, April). Mental Health Statistics. NAMI.
  2. Mental Health America.
  3. CDC. (2022, March 31). Adolescent and School Health — Data and Statistics.
  4. Mental Health America.