May 21, 2024

Mental health resources for teens in San Diego County

The teenage years of a person’s life can be tough: navigating middle and high school, making friends, trying to figure out what they want to do with their future — it’s a lot to handle.

Fortunately, there are resources throughout San Diego County and offered nationwide that teens and their families can turn to when they’re looking for extra mental health support. Many are low-cost or free.

The need for these services among teens is apparent. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 37 percent of U.S. high school students said their mental health suffered, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with additional research pointing to an especially dire situation for teenage girls: In 2021, nearly 60 percent of female students reported feeling persistently sad and hopeless, with roughly 25 percent making a suicide plan.

The issue hits close to home as well. As part of a two-year long project to examine San Diego’s mental health crisis, The San Diego Union-Tribune found that children up to age 17 were placed on almost 2,700 72-hour psychiatric holds across the county during the 2020-21 fiscal year — more than 1.5 times that of the rest of California.

Even if teens aren’t in immediate crisis, Steven Jellá, a licensed marriage and family therapist, doctor of psychology and the chief program officer at San Diego Youth Services, points to everyday stressors that can increase teenage angst: The pandemic added a layer of social disconnect, and the rapid spread of information, like through social media and the fast news cycle, can expose teens to traumas they may not have otherwise seen or experienced.

“There’s a lot of anxiety in our culture and young people are good at picking up on these dynamics and amplifying whatever is going on in the dominant community,” Jella said.

He also notes that while some teens and families have the resources to navigate these situations, socioeconomic inequities leave other families struggling to tap into “natural resiliencies” to help get them through a tough time.

The mental health resources on this list include online support groups, crisis hotlines and in-school services, but it is not exhaustive. If parents and teens are unable to find a resource, consider calling 2-1-1, a free telephone number to connect residents with county services, like mental health and housing support, suicide prevention and employment assistance.

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