Navigating the Mental Health Landscape of Today's Youth

Young man slumped over, appearing distressed, with vibrant ribbons of colours swirling in the background.

Mental illnesses can affect individuals across all age groups, including young people. Some of the common mental health disorders that young people may experience include:

  1. Depression: This includes major depressive disorder and other forms of depression. Young people with depression might experience persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or pleasure in activities.

  2. Anxiety Disorders: This encompasses a range of conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobias.

  3. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Young people with ADHD may have symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

  4. Eating Disorders: These include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. They involve serious disturbances in eating behavior, such as extreme and unhealthy reduction of food intake or severe overeating, as well as feelings of distress or extreme concern about body shape or weight.

  5. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): ASD is a developmental disorder that affects communication and behaviour. It’s known as a “spectrum” disorder because there’s wide variation in the type and severity of symptoms people experience.

  6. Bipolar Disorder: Previously known as manic depression, this disorder involves episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs.

  7. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): Young people with OCD may have unwanted repetitive thoughts and/or actions.

  8. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape, or other violent personal assault.

  9. Schizophrenia: This is a serious mental disorder in which people interpret reality abnormally. It may result in some combination of hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking and behaviour.

  10. Self-harm and Suicidal Behaviours: While not a mental illness in itself, self-harm is a concerning behaviour often associated with various mental health disorders. It’s crucial to take any talk or behaviour of self-harm or suicide seriously.

  11. Substance Use Disorders: Adolescence is a common time for the onset of substance use and potential misuse or addiction, including alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

  12. Conduct Disorders: These are a group of behavioural and emotional problems in youngsters. Children with these disorders often defy rules and norms, are disruptive in structured environments, and may engage in aggressive or harmful behaviours.

  13. Adjustment Disorders: These arise as a direct result of a specific event or situation, such as moving to a new location, divorce of parents, or transitioning to a new school.

  14. Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD): This involves an obsessive focus on perceived flaws in appearance, which to others might be minor or not observable.

It’s important to note that mental health disorders can manifest differently in young people compared to adults. Early intervention and appropriate treatment can make a significant difference in these individuals’ prognosis and quality of life. If you suspect a young person is struggling with a mental health issue, seek professional help or guidance.

Najwa Zahr is a registered social worker with twenty-five years of experience working with families and youth. She offers services in Calgary and Cochrane, Alberta, as well as online. Please call 403-615-1808 or visit for a free consultation.