Children Running

Addressing Teen Mental Health Challenges

Toolkits Tailored for You

The Department of Public Health recognizes that parenting has its share of challenges, and we are so glad that you found your way to this information. You may be a parent, grandparent, foster parent, neighbor, or mentor. No matter your title, you are an important role model in your teen’s life, and supporting their mental health is vital to their wellbeing. We are pleased to share information and resources with you that support your teen as they learn, grow, and overcome challenges.

If you are a parent or guardian accessing this toolkit because your teen is currently, or close to, experiencing a crisis involving physical or verbal outbursts, or even thoughts of hurting themselves, please skip to the section titled What to Do in a Crisis.
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National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Mental Health Conditions. Retrieved from
Talking about mental health with your teen can be difficult but it can also go a long way toward helping them navigate depression, stress, and anxiety. Signs of many mental health conditions are often first observed during the teenage years; 50% of mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% present by age 241. The resources and approaches found throughout this toolkit serve as a guide to helping your teen recognize and manage their emotions so that they may better respond and adapt to challenges into early adulthood and beyond. Effective and timely support can help teens stay in school, make safe choices, and stay on track to achieve their life goals. As a parent or other safe adult in a teenager’s life, your proactive and supportive presence will help your teen achieve optimal mental health and wellbeing as they move through life.

As you review this toolkit, please remember that your teen is thankful that you are here with their wellbeing, safety, and happiness in mind. Please know that you are not alone if you are feeling frustrated or uncertain if your teen is experiencing mental health challenges. Your support is incredibly meaningful and helpful to your teen, even if it is difficult for them to show it.

Who is the mental health toolkit for?
This mental health toolkit is designed for parents, guardians, and other adults with a significant role in the lives of middle and high school students.
What is the purpose of this toolkit?
The purpose of this mental health toolkit is to equip parents with the knowledge and resources to support their teen’s mental health and wellbeing.
What type of information can I find in this toolkit?
The first half of the toolkit provides an overview of the current mental health status of adolescents in the United States, guides you through responding to a crisis, and raises awareness of the most common mental health challenges faced by adolescents today. You will learn the signs that an adolescent may display when facing these challenges, and steps to help them effectively address concerning thoughts and/or behaviors.

The second half of this mental health toolkit focuses on mental health maintenance. You will learn about the factors that impact mental health and wellbeing, be guided through happiness exercises, and learn to distinguish between typical and atypical behavior changes during adolescence.

Throughout this toolkit you will be able to create your own list of mental health resources from reliable local, state, and national organizations.
Does this toolkit replace the support of a therapist or other mental health provider?
Please note that this mental health toolkit only addresses some of the most common mental health challenges that impact middle and high school students. We can give you general recommendations, but for an action plan tailored to your teen’s needs, please connect with a licensed mental health provider.
Can I use the toolkit for myself, as an adult?
Many of the recommended applications are useful for teens and adults alike. After all, modeling, or setting healthy examples, is one of the most important educational tools for parents raising resilient and emotionally intelligent teens.
Is this toolkit applicable for all parent and teen populations in the U.S.?
We think there are a lot of great resources in this toolkit, but we also know that some families and teens may need specialized support. If you are a family that has immigrant status, there are additional specific resources outlined below.

Reasons for migration are varied and include moving away from persecution, human right abuses, disasters, war, reuniting with family, and seeking new opportunities. During the relocating process, you and your family may have experienced trauma, fear, and anxiety. Language and immigration status add additional barriers that can make finding mental health services in the U.S. difficult. However, there are services available in Los Angeles County that provide health care to everyone regardless of immigration status. Los Angeles County Department of Health Services has a list of specialized services for immigrant populations at Immigrant Services website and 211LA is another helpful tool for Immigration Resources (211LA). El Centro De Amistad offers free mental health support to uninsured or undocumented individuals between the ages of 0 and 64.

If you are parenting children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN) we know that your family may require specialized support when it comes to mental health. In Los Angeles County, you are eligible for Regional Center services. The Regional Centers work with the California Department of Developmental Services to coordinate or provide community support, resources, and access to services for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. There are 7 Regional Centers in Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health provides more information on their Regional Centers webpage.
What is mental health?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines mental health as including our emotional, psychological, and social well-being2. It affects our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Mental health impacts the way that we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. It is important to remember that poor mental health and mental illnesses are not the same thing: a person can experience poor mental health and not be diagnosed with a mental illness.
How does mental health impact my teen?
Mental health can affect various aspects of a teen’s life. Some examples include, academic performance, decision making, and overall health and wellness. Mental health problems have been associated with other behavioral risks like drug use, violence, and high-risk sexual behaviors3. If left untreated, or treated inappropriately, mental health problems can lead to big life consequences such as dropping out of school, unemployment, arrest, and early death4.
Will my teen’s mental health remain the same throughout their life?
Adolescence is a time full of many changes in a child’s life: physiological changes, shifts in relationships between friends and family, and greater independence as they seek their “voice” and discern what they like and dislike as they ponder their adult life taking shape. Added pressures in high school - “Should I take the drama class or the AP Spanish course?” “Will I have time for the baseball team and time to hang out with my friends?” “Will my college application stand out to my dream university?” “Should I go to community college, trade tech, university, or begin to get work experience right after high school?” - make the transition from childhood to young adulthood more difficult.
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7Office of Populations Affairs HHS. (n.d.). Mental Health For Adolescents. Retrieved from
Mental health challenges experienced by children reaching adolescence are not new5. In fact, CDC reported that one in six students experienced behavioral or emotional symptoms and impairments that were diagnosable as a childhood mental disorder in a March 2023 study6. Common mental health disorders in adolescents ages 13-18 include anxiety disorders (32%), depression (13%), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (9%), and eating disorders (3%)7. It is not uncommon for conditions to occur together, in fact CDC reports that for teens reporting anxiety, more than 1 in 3 also had depression8.