More people than ever are being diagnosed and affected by mental health issues. In 1998 only 16.1 million people were receiving mental health treatment. In 2007, there were 23.3 million individuals. Wow! This is mostly because of more accurate screening tools and greater public acceptance. What we can’t tell is how many more people are not receiving help because of the stigma associated with mental health treatment.

There has been and continues to be a stigma around mental health disorders. This is even true for young people. In previous years, some parents ignored their children’s symptoms. Others sent their children away psychiatric wards so the public would not see them. Ridiculous! While this certainly is not the case anymore, there is still so much unknown to the public about mental health. And that is the issue! Because of the stigma and negative reactions, some people with mental health issues hide their diagnoses from the rest of the world. But this should never be okay! The longer someone battles the mental disorder alone, the longer and more difficult it becomes to treat.

It seems that people take less notice of diseases and disorders if you cannot see them on the outside. For example, we all know that we should have a healthy diet because if not, we may not be at a healthy weight. It can be much harder to identify and address mental disorders when compared to an eating habit or other illnesses related to physical health. The public can see if someone is over or underweight, but can we see if someone has an anxiety disorder? Depression? NO! We can’t, but that doesn’t make mental health any less important than physical health!

So how can young people get the help they need without being scared of what people might think? Having a consistent, engaging, and involved home life makes a person feel more comfortable and willing to voice their symptoms of mental illness. Being in a learning environment with zero-tolerance for bullying and where an individual’s needs and interests are addressed can have the same benefit. Still, only about one-half of adolescents with severe mental disorders receive treatment. Hopefully, more people our age will get the treatment they need as awareness and recognition increases.

May is mental health awareness month. For more information about ways to help young people who may have mental health issues, please visit:

  1. -
  2. Time to Change -
  3. Mental Health America

By: Augusta Worthington & Mary Davlin

Augusta Worthington and Mary Davlin attend Garrison Forest High School. As participants in the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Program, they are working with and learning from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health.