Mental illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, feeling, mood or behavior.
Mental illness is quite common among adolescents and young adults. The statistics are astounding: 1 in 5 young people suffer from a mental illness- that’s 20% of our population!
Mental Illnesses in Youth
Adolescence isn’t an easy time. The many transitions that accompany adolescence can become overwhelming for many. These transitions can be physical, emotional, hormonal, sexual, social, or intellectual. For many young people, these and other pressures and problems can lead to one or more of a variety of mental health disorders. Having a mental illness can make the things you do in life hard, like work, school and socializing with other people.
If you think you (or someone you know) might have a mental disorder, it is best to consult a professional as soon as possible. A health care professional will connect the symptoms and experiences you are having to help formulate a diagnosis.
Mental disorders can be separated into several categories. Click here for a list of the most common diagnoses.
It is important to address mental health concerns during the critical developmental stage of adolescence.
1 in 5 young people live with a mental health condition—1/2 develop the condition by age 14 and 3/4 by age 24.
Howard County Facts
23.5% of high school students reported feeling sad or hopeless in the past year.
18.2% of middle school students reported feeling sad or hopeless in the past year.
16.2% of high school students and 20% of middle school students seriously considered attempting suicide.
If you think you, or someone you know, may have a mental health condition, it’s important to know and recognize the 10 common warning signs.
- Feeling very sad or withdrawn
for more than two weeks.
- Seriously trying to harm or kill
oneself or making plans to do so.
- Severe out-of-control,
- Sudden, overwhelming fear for
- Not eating, throwing up or using
laxatives to lose weight; significant
weight loss or weight gain.
- Seeing, hearing or believing
things that are not real.
- Repeated usage of drugs
- Drastic changes in mood, behavior,
personality or sleeping habits.
- Extreme difficulty in concentrating
or staying still.
- Intense worries or fears that get
in the way of daily activities.
If you see these signs in yourself or someone else, reach out to someone you trust, a parent, friend, teacher, coach, or religious leader right away.
You can contact the Grassroots Crisis Intervention 24-Hour Crisis Hotline
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention 24-Hour Hotline at 1-800-273-8255
Suicide is a serious public health problem that affects many young people.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24.
Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition.
What are the risk factors?
Risk factors are issues in a young person’s life that increase the likelihood (risk) of them acting on suicidal thoughts. There are a number of things that may put a person at risk of suicide, including:
- A family history of suicide.
- Substance abuse – Drugs and alcohol can result in mental highs and lows that exacerbate suicidal thoughts.
- Intoxication – More than one in three people who die from suicide are found to be currently under the influence.
- A serious or chronic medical illness.
- Serious mental health conditions – Depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and personality traits of aggression, mood changes, and poor relationships.
- Gender– Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
- A history of trauma, abuse, and/or neglect.
- Prolonged stress.
- Age– People under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide.
- A recent tragedy or loss.
Want to learn more about youth suicide in Howard County?
Check out this cool infographic for more info –> HC Youth Suicide Awareness
Suicide is PREVENTABLE!
Things you can do:
- Talk with your pediatrician or family doctor.
- Get a referral to a mental health
- Talk with your school guidance counselor
- Connect with friends and family.
Risk factors can be balanced out to a certain extent by the presence of protective factors.
There are a range of protective factors that can help to reduce suicidal behavior, including:
- Strong, positive relationships with parents and guardians – feeling secure
- Connections to other adults– teacher, coach, pastor, counselor
- Closeness to caring friends
- Academic achievement
- School safety
- Feeling a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves – community, culture, religion, sports team
In this video created by Mayo Clinic, teens describe common signs that a teen is considering suicide and provide encouragement for communicating directly and immediately for support and safety. It also Includes suggestions for what to say to a teen who may be at risk for suicide and ways to keep them safe.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the
the local Grassroots Crisis Intervention 24-Hour Crisis Hotline
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention 24-Hour Hotline at
If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately
Did You Know……
Asking about suicidal thoughts or feelings won’t push someone into doing something self-destructive.
In fact, offering an opportunity to talk about feelings may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal thoughts.
It is important to know how to start the conversation about suicide, what to say during the conversation, and how to seek help.
* Click here to download a printable version of the information below.
First find a private place to talk where there will not be any distractions. Set aside time to have a conversation and find a comfortable place to sit.
Remember to approach the situation with care and with open ears. If you do not know what to say, try one of these opening lines:
- “I know you’re going through some stuff; I’m here for you.”
- “I’m worried about you and would like to know what’s going on so I can help”
- “Hey, you seemed frustrated today. I’m here for you. Want to talk about it?”
- “Are you okay? I noticed that you’ve missed school/practice a few times.”
- “It seems like something is bothering you. Do you want to talk about what’s going on?”
- “Seems like you haven’t been yourself lately. What’s up?”
It is important to give full attention to the individual when they are being open about how they are feeling. During the conversation, remember to:
- Keep it casual and relax. Think of the conversation as a chat, not a therapy session.
- Listen carefully.
- Avoid fixing the problem for them.
- Make yourself available.
- Ask open-ended questions to help them talk instead of responding with “yes” and “no.”
- Let them open up at their own speed. Do not demand answers or force them to say anything that they are not ready to.
- Encourage them to talk to a mental health expert or doctor.
- Let them know that this will not change how you feel about them.
Assist the individual with getting the professional help that they need.
- Help them connect: assist with reaching out to a parent, teacher, counselor, hotline, or other mental health professional.
- Contact Grassroots Crisis Center Hotline: 410-531-6677
- Contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
- Contact the Crisis Text Line: text 741 741
- Don’t give up. Stay available and keep offering help.
- Handle their trust with care.
- Follow up and keep checking in to see how they are doing.
Content source: Seize the Awkward, 2018
It’s OK to Ask
Click here for a PDF version of the Howard County Suicide Prevention Plan shown above.
On Thursday February 28, 2019, County Executive Ball and the Howard County Health Department announced a plan to reduce youth suicide in Howard County.
The evidence-based plan, accompanied by an “It’s OK to Ask” outreach campaign, encourages both youth and adults to talk openly about suicide and suicide prevention.
Photo: Howard County Government
For community-based trainings, presentations, materials, & information,
Contact Kayla Blasher, Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator
Trainings & Events
Click here for the Howard County
Local Health Improvement Coalition
(LHIC) Calendar of
- Talk Saves LivesTM: An Introduction to Suicide Prevention – Training provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
A 60-90 minute community-based presentation that covers the general scope of suicide, the research on prevention, and what people can do to fight suicide. Attendees will learn the risk and warning signs of suicide, and how together, we can help prevent it.
- SafeTALK – Training provided by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).
SafeTALK is a 3-hour alertness training that prepares anyone over the age of 15, regardless of prior experience or training, to become a suicide-alert helper. Most people with thoughts of suicide don’t truly want to die, but are struggling with the pain in their lives. Through their words and actions, they invite help to stay alive. safeTALK-trained helpers can recognize these invitations and take action by connecting them with life-saving intervention resources, such as caregivers trained in ASIST.
- QPR: Suicide Prevention Training – Training provided by Grassroots Crisis Intervention.
Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) — 3 simple steps that anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide. Just as people trained in CPR help save thousands of lives each year, people trained in QPR learn how to recognize the warning signs of a suicide crisis and how to question, persuade, and refer someone to help. QPR is a basic suicide prevention gatekeeper training designed for individuals who do not have training/experience in suicide intervention.
Safe Space Training – Training provided by Grassroots Crisis Intervention.
The Safe Space training has been designed by Grassroots as a suicide prevention and intervention model that focuses on the LGBTQ+ population and their increased risk for suicide. It is free for Howard County residents and those who work in the county. CEUs are available. The training program combines cultural competence with prevention and intervention strategies to reduce stigma, reduce suicidality, and ultimately save lives.
- Mental Health First Aid – Mental Health First Aid is an 8-hour course that teaches you how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The training gives you the skills you need to reach out and provide initial help and support to someone who may be developing a mental health or substance use problem or experiencing a crisis.
What you hold in will, in time, find a way out. Your emotions need room to breathe as much as you do.
If you’re concerned that you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, it’s important to act immediately!
Call your doctor, mental health crisis service, or go to your local hospital’s emergency department.
Grassroots Crisis Intervention (Crisis/Suicide/Runaway/Shelter)
Grassroots operates a 24-hour crisis intervention and supportive counseling hotline. Callers may remain anonymous and may call for a variety of reasons including suicide, family and relationship problems, shelter needs, violent or threatening domestic situations, loneliness or depression, and chemical dependency issues, among others. The Hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
6700 Freetown Rd, Columbia, MD 21044
National Suicide Prevention Hotline
The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
Maryland Crisis Connect
Provides trained crisis counselors to assist individuals struggling with suicide, physical and sexual abuse, depression, stress, pregnancy, homicide concerns, eating disorders, sexual identity, running away, relationship problems, divorce, sexually transmitted infections, and school issues.
Crisis Text Line
Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Text 741741 from anywhere in the US to text with a trained Crisis Counselor. Crisis Text Line trains volunteers to support people in crisis.
Text 741 741
National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI)
An online community designed to empower young adults through resource sharing and peer support.
Howard County Mobile Crisis Team (MCT)
MCT responds to suicide threats or attempts, intense family or parent/child conflict, psychiatric or behavioral emergencies, crisis situations and traumatic events, and children/adolescents with serious emotional difficulties. MCT is available 9:00 a.m. to 11 p.m., 7 days a week.
The Trevor Line
Crisis intervention & suicide Prevention for LGBTQ Youth
24/7 Hotline: 1-866-488-7386
Click here to access the Youth Behavioral Health directory for services in Howard County.
For community-based trainings, presentations, materials, & information, click here
or contact Kayla Blasher, Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator at