Young people are often exposed to a range of stressors that can profoundly impact their mental and emotional stability. If not addressed, mental health issues can lead to more serious and persistent conditions in the future, as early experiences can shape the trajectory of well-being in adulthood.
When Anna*, a straight-A high school student who had just got accepted to the University of Virginia, suddenly started struggling with schoolwork, she blamed it on “senioritis.” However, she soon realized that the complete lack of motivation and inability to stay organized she was experiencing were symptoms of something more serious than a temporary affliction. “My mom tried the best she could to help me, but I knew I needed professional help from someone who could really listen to me and understand that I couldn’t control my emotions,” said Anna. She heard about The Women’s Center from a friend as she researched places where she could get mental health support. The Center happened to have an opening with a young female therapist, which was Anna’s preference.
Anna has stayed in and out of therapy, returning to The Women’s Center after a few years in college when her mental health struggles worsened. Around that time, she was also diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression.
ADHD is one of the most commonly diagnosed neurodevelopmental conditions among children and adolescents. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, six million children aged 2-17 have been diagnosed with the disorder. Nearly two-thirds of them also had other mental, emotional, or behavioral problems, with 33% struggling with anxiety and 17% with depression. Those diagnosed with ADHD often face challenges in both academic and social settings. They are also frequently reprimanded for behaviors that they can’t fully control.
Therapy has provided Anna with a safe, supportive environment to work through challenges and develop the skills she needs to thrive. She acknowledges that improving mental health is not a one-and-done or a linear process but rather one full of ups and downs. “After masking my struggles for so long, I finally learned how to cope. I still have bad days, but my lows aren’t as devastating as they used to be because I learned how to recognize my feelings and manage stress,” Anna shared.
Anna’s grades have been improving semester by semester. When asked for advice, she encouraged anyone struggling with mental health to take that first step and ask for help. “You will have good and bad days. You will fail, but you will then recover. Step by step, you will learn how to practice self-compassion, make self-gratitude a habit and find a path forward.”
Mental instability during adolescence can interfere with normal development and impact cognitive, social, and emotional growth. It often leads to unhealthy behaviors such as substance abuse, poor diet, and physical inactivity. Poor mental health can derail social and academic functioning, making it difficult for young people to participate in daily activities, succeed in school, form healthy relationships, or pursue life goals and aspirations.
With the backing of individual and corporate donors, The Women’s Center is committed to helping young people like Anna overcome adversity and thrive. Thanks to a subsidy from the Virginia Health Care Foundation that funds our Adolescent Mental Health Program, we have increased service hours dedicated to young community members by 173% and served 30% more adolescents in the first year of the grant. More importantly, 84% of the clients demonstrated improved mental health.
If you or someone you know is struggling to cope mentally after a traumatic experience, please book an appointment by calling the Women’s Center at (571) 385-1625 (Vienna location) or (202) 293-4580 (DC location). For more information, click HERE.
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the client.