Mental Health and Young People, Ages 13 to 18

Mental health is an important part of overall health for everyone, including young people.  However, the percentage of young Americans experiencing depression and anxiety has risen significantly over the past decade.

About 1 in 5 children ages 13-18 in the U.S. will experience a mental health disorder.  Regional data from 2019 indicates that 26.5% of high school students reported that they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row, inhibiting them from performing usual activities. Ultimately, this can have negative long-term effects that could leave students feeling isolated and perhaps stigmatized, with detrimental impacts on their academic performance, future employment, life satisfaction, and overall health.

Alarmingly, the percentage of students in the region reporting suicidal thoughts was 12.1%, and 9.7% said that they made a plan about how they would attempt suicide.  The leading causes of negative stress for middle and high school students surveyed in the Middlesex County area were “demands/expectations about school” and a “busy schedule.” Other concerns ranking high on the list of stressors were difficulty getting enough sleep and social pressures from peers.

Early diagnosis and appropriate services for children and their families can make a substantial difference in the lives of children with mental health challenges. Bedford families looking for information or resources can contact Social Worker, Chris Bang at 781-275-7727 X 4328.  Also available is William James Interface Referral Service: 888-244-6843 (toll-free) Mon – Fri, 9 am – 5 pm.

Young people may not be able to change all of the external factors contributing to their stress, but they can choose how they manage their stress and improve their lifestyle habits. Experts tell us the first and most important factor is to get enough sleep, including refraining from keeping phones or tablets in the bedroom at night and putting devices down within an hour of bedtime.  Also recommended is sufficient exercise.  This can be as simple as taking walking breaks throughout the day or considering walking or biking to and from school.

Do you need help starting a conversation with your child or teen about mental health? Try leading with these questions. Make sure you actively listen to your child’s response.

  • Can you tell me more about what is happening? How you are feeling?
  • Have you had feelings like this in the past?
  • Sometimes you need to talk to an adult about your feelings. I’m here to listen. How can I help you feel better?
  • Do you feel like you want to talk to someone else about your problem?
  • I’m worried about your safety. Can you tell me if you have thoughts about harming yourself or others?

If you or your child are experiencing a mental health emergency

For access to Outpatient Mental Health Services

The William James College INTERFACE Referral Helpline is a free, confidential referral service available Monday through Friday, 9 am-5 pm for Bedford residents and students of Bedford Public Schools. INTERFACE can be contacted directly at 888-244-6843 for resource information and/or outpatient mental health provider referrals from a trained resource and referral counselor. Individuals are matched with licensed mental health providers, on average within 2 weeks of their call, who best match the resident’s location, insurance, and specialty needs.

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