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Introduction to adolescent mental health
Introduction to adolescent mental health

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4.1 Recognising a problem

For this activity, it’s not about getting it right - it’s about exploring different ways of understanding young people and the different approaches that can be used to support them.

Activity 8: Helping Lily and Ethan

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Go to the opening page of the interactive case studies, and select either Lily or Ethan. Work through the whole activity with one of them.

A screenshot of the activity.
Click here to explore the activity. [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] Remember to open the link in a new window or tab so you can refer back to the course when you are ready.


Did you identify the issues Lily or Ethan were dealing with? If you have time, you might want to repeat the activity with the other case.

Are you any closer to deciding what a ‘normal’ adolescent looks like? Changes in the brain, which are independent of cultural judgements about adolescence, indicate that you can expect swings in emotion, a greater tendency to take risks, and immature decision-making abilities as the norm. You might expect more arguments as adolescents test their social boundaries. When young people reach a point where they become unable to function in a way that promotes their longer-term health and wellbeing, you may have cause for concern. Some of this ability to cope with difficulties will be discussed in Session 5, which is about resilience.

Mental health difficulties, similarly, become a cause for concern when the young person is struggling to cope. The diagram below, produced by the UK Centre for Mental Health, shows a spectrum in which there may be no clear dividing line between the transitions from trouble-free mental health, a situation where a young person is coping well with challenges, to points where they struggle or become unwell. As you continue through this course, you’ll refer to this spectrum periodically.

A diagram of an arrow, on the left it is green with the word ‘healthy’, then it changes to yellow with the word ‘coping’. Then it moves to red with the word ‘struggling’, then it moves to a dark red, with the word ‘unwell’.
Figure 13: Mental health spectrum