5 mental health issues affecting teenagers

by | Jun 10, 2021 | blog, child protection

Over the last few years I’ve worked closely with tertiary institutions, sitting as safeguarding board chair, trainer and consultant.


It is not an understatement to say that mental health issues are by far the biggest issues affecting our teenagers. In this blog I’ll highlight the 5 top areas affecting teens.


But let’s being with what we mean by mental health. We all have it. The World Health Organisation defines it as:

‘a state of wellbeing in which the individual realises his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community’.

For several years now, young people have increasingly been struggling with this. There is no simple reason for this and no one solution.


In this blog I am sharing the definitions of the 5 top mental health areas I see affecting young people.



Anxiety can be hugely debilitating for the individual. It can impact every area of life. The NHS define it as:

…a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.”



Mind define depressions as:

…a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.

In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn’t stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal.”


Self harm

Mind define self harm as:

…when you hurt yourself as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences. Some people have described self-harm as a way to:

  • express something that is hard to put into words
  • turn invisible thoughts or feelings into something visible
  • change emotional pain into physical pain
  • reduce overwhelming emotional feelings or thoughts
  • have a sense of being in control
  • escape traumatic memories
  • have something in life that they can rely on
  • punish themselves for their feelings and experiences
  • stop feeling numb, disconnected or dissociated (see dissocation and dissociative disorders)
  • create a reason to physically care for themselves
  • express suicidal feelings and thoughts without taking their own life.

After self-harming you may feel a short-term sense of release, but the cause of your distress is unlikely to have gone away. Self-harm can also bring up very difficult emotions and could make you feel worse.

Even though there are always reasons underneath someone hurting themselves, it is important to know that self-harm does carry risks. Once you have started to depend on self-harm, it can take a long time to stop.”


Eating Disorders

The NHS define eating disorders as:

a mental health condition where you use the control of food to cope with feelings and other situations.” 

They include:

  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia
  • Binge eating
  • Other specified feeding or eating disorder
  • other feeding or eating problems


Suicidal tendencies

Mind defines these as:

Suicidal feelings can mean having abstract thoughts about ending your life or feeling that people would be better off without you. Or it can mean thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take your own life.


Each of these are very serious and if you are worried about any of these issue, appropriate guidance and advice should be sought, swiftly.


Want more?

Want to keep on top of your safeguarding obligations, join Kate and other child protection professionals in The Safeguarding Association community.

Join my open Safeguarding Hub for DSL’s 

Already working as a DSL in tertiary education and looking for quality training relevant to your sector and role? Look at my open courses here

Learn more about the Safeguarding Leaders Hub, here


Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Safeguarding Practitioners Ltd & Kate Young disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.


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