Mental illness, like physical illnesses, is on a continuum of severity ranging from mild to moderate to severe. A mental illness is a disease of the brain that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines.

Mental health problems may be related to excessive stress due to a particular situation or series of events.
Mental illnesses are often physical as well as emotional and psychological.
Mental illnesses may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of these.

Adolescence is a critical period for mental, social, and emotional wellbeing and development. The brain undergoes significant developmental changes, establishing neural pathways and behavior patterns that will last into adulthood. Adolescents’ developing brains, coupled with hormonal changes, make them more prone to depression and more likely to engage in risky, thrill-seeking behaviors. These factors underline the importance of meeting the mental, social, and emotional health needs of this age group.

“Your teen is self-harming for attention” is a common response which minimizes the teens cry for help. And while this may be the case, there a difference between cutting for attention and the clinically recognized rage-based cutting and that is “motivation”. Rage-based cutters actually do everything possible to hide it. Regardless of why, a self-harmer needs help.

Nationally, there is a lack of referral services and specialists trained in dealing with adolescents’ specialized needs.

Local Facts…

  • Many families have teenagers that are struggling with depression, anxiety, ADHD, self harm & other mental health issues.
  • Many of our local SB South County resources require MediCal so they are not available to all families.
  • There is shame, embarrassment, and isolation for families when they are in crisis. Asking for help or support can be difficult. The pressure to have the perfect student or athlete often translates into families either being in denial or unwilling to seek help as they try to keep up appearances.
  • The external perception is that most local programs do not currently engage or support parents in a way that allows the family to learn together.
  • The current demographics of many local support groups are not diverse enough to make families feel they are amongst peers.
  • Most high school counselors are trained to support students academically and not therapeutically. Schools are overwhelmed with the amount of teens asking for help with issues ranging from suicide attempts, substance abuse,, cutting, eating disorders, depression and anxiety.
  • IEP & 504 PLANS only identify mental health issues when it directly impacts their academic performance. The challenge is that often a high achieving student can be struggling with mental health issues but go unnoticed if their grades are not slipping.
    • An IEP is a legal document that spells out a child’s educational goals, disabilities and services/support that the school will provide. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federal law that requires schools to serve the educational needs of eligible students (3-21) with disabilities. A student must have a disability and, as a result… need special education in order to make progress in school. The disability must affect child’s academic performance and/or ability to learn and benefit from the general ed curriculum.
    • A 504 Plan identifies reasonable accommodations and modifications to help the student succeed in the classroom and access the curriculum at the same level as peers.

National Stats…

Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–24 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24. [NAMI]


Multicultural Stats…


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