Mental Health Troubles Teens

Depression and anxiety are the top mental illnesses affecting Texoma teens and young adults.

"Mental illnesses are as common as heart disease, diabetes, that sort of thing," Roddy Atkins, the Executive Director at Helen Farabee said.

He said one in four Americans suffer a form of mental illness in their lifetime, but 75-percent of those cases happen between the ages of 14 and 24.

One of the reasons it is more common in young adults is because that age group is going through biological changes, both physically and mentally.  Experts also said something usually happens in the teen's or young adult life that triggers mental illnesses.  Triggers could be breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, getting a new job, stress from school or work.  Basically, it is anything that causes a significant change in the person's life.  Another factor is family history.

Atkins said, "When you're 15 through 24 you're bullet proof and you really don't want to think about, oh I've got this major illness that I've got to deal with."

He said the most common mental illness is major depression.

"Schizophrenia is the rarest.  It's the most devastating, but it's actually fairly rare," Atkins said.

However, no matter what mental illness someone is suffering, it changes their life.

Atkins explained that many people will try to medicate the illness by turning to drugs or alcohol.  However, he said it only makes the symptoms worse over time.

"Sometimes I think when people hear these diagnoses they think like it's a life sentence and they can't ever do anything," he said.

Atkins said there are things you can do.  First, he said you should look for signs or symptoms.

"Major changes in behavior and mood and who people socialize or friends or whether they isolate themselves, or they lose interest in things they've been interested in," he said.

Loss of appetite is another sign.  Something else you can do is simply talk to them.

"I think most parents instinctively kind of know," Atkins said, "I think that sometimes they're afraid to ask the question or to say what's going on," Atkins said.

He said if your teen is suffering from mental illness, there are a number of treatment options.  He explained people can try therapy, medication, or a combination of both.  It just depends on the person.

"I think that the idea that you're on a medication somehow people think that that makes you somewhat less," Atkins said, "I think that stigma is there to a degree."

He explained 50-percent of people between 8 and 15 get treatment.

"As you get older that becomes only about 40-percent," Atkins said.

He said everyone needs a purpose, a safe place to live, and relationships.

"If you have those three in place, then you can recover from a lot of these things because it's those things that these illnesses take away from you," he said.

He said mental illness should not be ignored because the third leading cause of death between the ages of 15 and 24 is suicide.

For more information about mental illness head to

Alexandra McClung, Newschannel 6