Many mental illnesses first develop at a young age. Their symptoms can be like those seen in adults, but some symptoms are more common in young people – for example, difficulty paying attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.
Young people typically lack experience and knowledge of mental illness and often feel that their peers and even adults can’t understand what they are going through. As a result, they tend to hide their symptoms. It is also common for their symptoms to be discounted as “phases,” moodiness, or the natural behaviours of youth.
It’s important to acknowledge and openly discuss signs of mental illness in youth because the sooner young people are treated, the better their chances of recovery. Early intervention and treatment also makes the mental illness less likely to reoccur, and if it does, its severity may be greatly reduced.
Parents, teachers and friends are usually the first to recognize that a young person may be having significant problems with emotions or behaviour. The Canadian Psychiatric Society offers the following signs to look for in your teen, student, brother, sister, classmate, or friend that could mean a psychiatric evaluation would be useful: