Mental health affects how we feel, think and act. It’s important at every stage of life so that we can cope with stressful situations, work productively, and make meaningful contributions to our community. However, the statistics are staggering. Over 45% of teens suffer from a mental disorder and 1 in 5 teens suffer from a severe mental illness. That’s 20 percent of our teen population. Mental illnesses are brain function disorders. =They have many causes and result from complex interactions between a person’s genes and their environment. A person struggling with mental health should not be viewed any different than if someone were experiencing a physical illness. Mental illness is not a choice or a failure. It does not discriminate. It can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, social status, ethnicity, or any other aspect of cultural identity. In fact, mental illnesses occur at similar rates around the world, in every culture and in all socio economic groups. The concern with mental health isn’t just about the statistics, it’s about well-being. It can affect families, friends and our communities. But you can help make a difference by learning to recognize the signs of mental illness. A mental illness makes the things you do in life hard, like: work, school and socializing. It’s also not always clear when a problem with mood or thinking has become serious enough to be a concern. Sometimes a depressed mood is normal, such as when a person experiences the loss of a loved one. But if that depressed mood continues to cause distress or gets in the way of normal daily functioning, the person may benefit from professional care. If you think you (or someone you know) might be struggling with their mental health, it is best to consult a professional. Early identification and effective treatment is key to treating a disorder and preventing future disability. A health care professional will connect symptoms and experiences to help formulate a diagnosis. If your thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, call 1-800-273-8255. For more information visit childrens.pennstatehealth.org or med.psu.edu/PROwellness.