In Tennessee, 20 percent (or 1 in 5) young people have a mental health condition. A study by Mental Health America shows that across the country, just under 2 million youth experienced severe depression in 2018. Many young people are at risk for anxiety, depression, drug and/or alcohol abuse or even suicide attempts. Drug or alcohol abuse and mental health conditions are often seen together in teens. Youth with depression or anxiety will often use alcohol or drugs as a means of easing the pain they are experiencing or self-medicating. This can result in worsening symptoms of depression or anxiety. Youth mental health conditions and drug or alcohol abuse can result in significant interference in school, home and relationships.
It can be hard for caring adults and other young people to tell if a child or teen is experiencing mental health issues. Children and teens that have mental health problems are very diverse– in other words– there isn’t a “typical” race, gender or socioeconomic group that can help identify who may be at risk. It is important for parents and adults that work with children and teens to have open conversations with young people. Encouraging them to be comfortable speaking about their experiences, observations, and feelings can help with their emotional well-being.
It is also important for parents and adults to recognize the existing stigma around preteen and adolescent mental health issues, and work to lessen it. They can do this by supporting young people in having honest conversations, and taking them seriously when they talk about feelings of sadness or loneliness. Teens who have worked through mental health problems have expressed that adults have a tendency to minimize their experiences.
People seeking help or information can talk to their pediatrician or family doctor and can call the Tennessee Mental Health Helpline 1-800-560-5767.
The Tennessee Department of Education also offers Youth Mental Health First Aid Training at locations across the state. Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Additional information on YMHFA, is available here. To schedule a group YMHFA training, contact Janet Watkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To search for mental health or substance abuse services in your area, visit the kidcentral tn state services directory. Enter key words, a zip code, and even age ranges to tailor your search.
The Tennessee statewide crisis phone line, 855-274-7471, is a 24/7/365 call system to help anyone experiencing a mental health crisis.
The Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information when users text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the USA.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) provides access to trained telephone counselors, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is available for crisis calls as well as for information, for support and for discussing suicide with a youth at risk.
The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network is a statewide public-private organization made up of health and mental health professionals, consumers, attempters, survivors and other interested individuals. Their site is loaded with information for people who need help now, and those who want to learn more about suicide and how to help others.
The Tennessee Healthy Transitions Initiative is a partnership of state and local community agencies and youth led organizations that provides mental health and other support services, and creates opportunities for peer support.
The Tennessee Department of Education Office of Safe and Supportive School periodically conducts training for adults who interact with children and families across the state.
Learn more about depression in children and adolescents.