Promoting and protecting adolescent mental health

October 24, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the world for young people. Many have missed months or even years of in-person school, graduation ceremonies, sports competitions, and time with friends and relatives. They and their families may have lost access to mental health care, social services, income, food or housing.

For many adolescents, these disruptions have resulted in substantial mental health challenges. Long identified as a major public health concern, these challenges have been exacerbated by the pandemic. In a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, more than one in three U.S. high school students experienced mental health struggles during the pandemic. The staggering impact the pandemic had on mental health was the impetus for our 2022 Adolescent Health Summer Institute Promoting & Protecting Adolescent Mental Health.

Held virtually for the third year, and with over 100 youth-serving professionals from 16 states, this year’s institute focused on approaches, tools and resources to support adolescent mental health. Through our virtual platform, we engaged with adolescent health experts who addressed healing justice, optimizing mental health, digital wellbeing, transforming systems and holistic perspectives. We also engaged with young people who shared their perspectives on mental health needs of adolescents living in under-resourced communities as well as ways to engage in and advocate for young people’s digital wellbeing.

“Sound mental health is an essential foundation for adolescent health and development,” says Professor Renee Sieving, PhD, RN, FAAN, FSAHM. “By exploring recent patterns in adolescent mental health using developmental and social-ecological lenses, we provided tools and resources to those working with youth, to help them guide young people in sustaining and reclaiming their mental wellbeing. This is a key moment to support adolescents’ mental health, as well as to change aspects of schools, community organizations, and other institutions that shape their daily lives, so that all young people can thrive.”