Young Person’s Understanding of Mental Health Problems

Young people have limited life experiences they can draw upon to make sense of their lives. They may be aware that something is not right but don’t know exactly what’s going on for them.

They may:

  • think this is just the way life is.
  • try to ignore it, hoping it will go away.
  • believe they can get over it on their own.
  • see mental illness as something that only affects other people – not them.

Parents, siblings and teachers are often the first one to notice changes in a young person.

When others notice, it can validate for the young person that their struggles are real. They may be relieved to see that they no longer have to deal with it on their own.

However concerns raised by someone else also can be quite threatening. No one wants to be seen as having a mental health problem. They may not see their behaviour or the observed changes as being a problem or may attribute them to something else going on in their life.  

It takes a lot of courage to talk to someone about personal difficulties.

Our society has taught us that:

  • we should deal with problems on our own.
  • people with mental health problems are weak and incompetent.

These ideas can be barriers to accepting help from others.

Beliefs about mental health can also make it difficult for young people to seek help. They may believe:

  • mental health problems mean you are “crazy”.
  • no one will want to be around me if they find out I have a mental health problem.
  • they’ll lock me up and I’ll never get out.
  • I’ll never get better.





Talking about mental health concerns