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Helping Teens Feel Mentally Healthy

As we all know, adolescence is an exciting, often confusing time in a person’s life. Naturally, our mental health during these years is fragile. As teens navigate academic pressures, social challenges, and personal growth, it’s essential to provide them with the necessary support to foster mental well-being.

Here are some strategies for helping teens feel mentally healthy, empowering them to navigate their emotions, build resilience, and thrive during this transformative phase.

  1. Encourage open communication — Create a safe and non-judgmental environment where teens feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions. Encourage open conversations, actively listen without interruption, and validate their experiences. Engaging in supportive dialogue can help teens process their feelings and foster a sense of belonging.
  2. Promote healthy coping mechanisms — Teach teens positive coping mechanisms to manage stress and emotions. Encourage activities such as exercise, mindfulness, journaling, art, or engaging in hobbies they enjoy. These activities can serve as healthy outlets and help reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.
  3. Foster connection and social support — Strong social connections are vital for teen mental health. Encourage participation in extracurricular activities, clubs, or sports where they can meet like-minded peers. Supportive relationships provide a sense of belonging and act as protective factors against mental health challenges.
  4. Educate on mental health — Promote mental health literacy by providing accurate information and resources. Help teens understand common mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression, and educate them about the signs and symptoms. Knowledge empowers them to seek help when needed and reduces the stigma surrounding mental health.
  5. Encourage healthy lifestyle choices — Emphasize the importance of maintaining a balanced lifestyle that includes regular sleep, healthy eating, and physical activity. Encourage teens to establish consistent sleep patterns and incorporate nutritious foods into their diet. Physical activity boosts mood and helps reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  6. Teach stress management techniques — Teach teens effective stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided imagery. These techniques can help them regulate their emotions, reduce stress levels, and improve overall well-being.
  7. Model self-care practices — Lead by example and prioritize your own self-care. When teens witness adults valuing their mental health, they are more likely to adopt similar practices. Show them the importance of setting boundaries, practicing self-compassion, and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation.

Supporting teen mental health is a vital investment in their overall well-being and future success. By fostering open communication, promoting healthy coping mechanisms, nurturing social connections, and emphasizing self-care, we can empower teens to prioritize their mental health and build resilience. Remember, each teen is unique, so it's crucial to adapt strategies to their specific needs and provide professional help if necessary.

AltaMed Teen Services

AltaMed helps teens and young adults take control of their physical, mental, and sexual and reproductive health. We connect them with educational programs, any necessary resources, and confidential health services that can help empower their choices. To get started, call (323) 786-3132.

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Pregnancy Test Teen Pregnancy

The Truth about Teen Pregnancy

If you are thinking about being sexually active and are wondering how you can prevent being pregnant, or if you think you might be pregnant or might have gotten somebody pregnant, keep reading. You have some big decisions to make. It can seem like more than you can handle, but it doesn’t have to be.

There are many local and statewide resources to help you understand the options of how to prevent becoming pregnant, raising a child, exploring adoption, or having an abortion. To make the best decision for you, you first need all the facts.

Teenagers Couple Laughing Together

From Sex to Pregnancy

We know that people have sex for a variety of reasons besides trying to create a baby. Having unprotected sex, however, can lead to unexpected pregnancies.

How would you know if you’re pregnant and how do you find out for sure? Here are a few common signs.

  • Missing your period after sex — that’s the big one and you should probably take a pregnancy test if you’re regular period hasn’t happened.
  • Discomfort — pregnant people report nausea, vomiting, and sore breasts in the early stages of pregnancy.
  • Mood swings — some people get emotional in the first few weeks of pregnancy.
  • Tiredness — your body is working hard to support new cells growing inside you. Pregnancy also affects your hormones and can lower your energy levels.

Home pregnancy tests are a good first step, but it’s best to confirm your results, positive or negative, with a doctor.

If you had unprotected sex in the last 72 hours, you could go to any drug store and get the Plan B pill. It’s been called the “morning after” pill because it can stop someone from getting pregnant. The sooner you take it, the better the chance of stopping an unwanted pregnancy. You don’t need a prescription and you don’t need your parents’ permission.

Teenagers Holding Hands


Since it takes two people to get pregnant, ideally the two people involved would discuss what to do next. If you’re under 18, you need to let a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult know about your situation. You can only “hide” a pregnancy for so long. The sooner you tell someone, the sooner you can come up with a plan for “what’s next.”

Adoption — If this baby wasn’t part of your plan, there are plenty of parents who would be happy to adopt a child. Organizations like Planned Parenthood can talk to you about options for your pregnancy, including adoption.

Abortion — Ending the pregnancy is another option. You can get an abortion in California without the permission of your parents or a guardian even if you’re under 18. Most family planning clinics can perform an abortion and they can’t tell your parents. Be careful of places that call themselves “crisis pregnancy centers,” “pregnancy resource centers,” or any place that focuses on changing your mind about your pregnancy. A trustworthy provider offers the information you need to make your own decision.

Raising the baby — It can be done. There are a LOT of places that offer resources to teen parents. Organizations like Generation Her help teen moms reach their education and career goals. The state has programs too like the Adolescent Family Life Program and Cal-Learn. You can also reach out to AltaMed’s Youth Services team for information about options and resources available to you.

A Pregnancy Scare?

If you thought you were pregnant, but turns out you’re not, there’s no reason to take any more chances. Unprotected sex can lead to a lot more than a baby. Protection is key. Lots of places give out condoms and can help you get birth control. They can also test you for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or HIV.

Altamed Clinic Building

AltaMed’s Teen Center’s Got You

Sometimes it’s easier to talk to people like you and we’ve got that covered at the AltaMed Teen Center. You can also talk to our staff of health educators about sexual health, issues at home or at school, or anything you need to discuss. No judgment. No telling your parents. Just reliable information you can use to make healthy choices.

We offer free confidential sexual and reproductive health services including:

  • Health education

  • Birth control

  • Condoms

  • Emergency contraception

  • Pregnancy testing

  • STI and HIV testing and treatment

  • Referrals for PrEP and PEP (daily medication to prevent HIV before or after exposure)

Did we already say it was confidential? To make an appointment or ask a question anonymously, call or text 323-786-3132.

You have rights and there are laws protecting your sexual health. Contact the ACLU if you feel your rights have been violated.

Woman Measuring Her Waist

Talking to Your Teen about Eating Disorders

Very little has been within our control over the last two years. Coping with so much hardship, anxiety, and isolation can be extremely difficult. For some, it has led to unhealthy relationships with drugs, alcohol, and even food.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report in February that showed a steady increase in eating disorder-related emergency department visits by girls between 12 and 17 years old.

Eating disorders are serious and potentially fatal mental health conditions. It’s the second-deadliest mental illness after opioid addiction. That’s why it’s so important to have a conversation early if you think someone suffers from an eating disorder.

By the Numbers

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD):

  • 28.8 million Americans — 9% of the U.S. population — will have an eating disorder
  • Less than 6% of people with an eating disorder are medically diagnosed as underweight
  • 10,200 deaths a year are the direct result of an eating disorder — one every 52 minutes
  • Non-whites are significantly less likely than whites to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms
  • Non-whites with eating disorders are half as likely to be diagnosed or receive treatment
  • Black people are less likely to be diagnosed with anorexia than white people but experience it longer
  • Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teens to exhibit binge-eating and purging
  • Hispanics are significantly more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa than non-Hispanics
  • Asian American college students report higher levels of body dissatisfaction than their non-Asian non-white peers
Man Vomiting in the Bathroom

What to Look For

Eating disorders result from severe disturbances in eating behaviors often related to thoughts and emotions. The person is focused on food, how they look, or their weight. They focus on those things at the exclusion of everything else.

The most common eating disorders and their symptoms:

Anorexia nervosa — People see themselves as overweight and tend to constantly weigh themselves. Those of the restrictive subtype seriously restrict how much they eat. The binge-purge subtype restricts how much they eat, though they may occasionally eat a large amount of food then purge by vomiting or using laxatives. They are dangerously thin. Anorexia can be fatal as organs and muscles can break down.

Bulimia nervosa — People with this condition will frequently eat large amounts of food, feel guilty about it, then purge, exercise excessively, use laxatives, fast, or a combination of all these behaviors. The vomiting can lead to damaged teeth, acid reflux, and dehydration.

Binge-eating disorder — A person will lose control of their eating and recurrently eat large amounts of food. They are often obese because the excessive eating is never followed by purging, fasting or exercise. This is the most common eating disorder in the U.S.

Father Hugging his Daughter

Talking to Your Teen

There are several reasons people can develop eating disorders. There is a potential genetic link as people who have siblings or parents with an eating disorder are more likely to develop an eating disorder. Depression and anxiety are often linked with eating disorders. Western culture emphasizes thin, athletic bodies. Certain activities — gymnastics, skating, ballet — seem to favor slender people.

Preventing an eating disorder starts with open communication about body image and diet.

  • Encourage healthy habits — Talk about how energy, appearance, and health are affected by diet. Encourage teens to only eat when hungry. Provide a good example.
  • Talk about media messages — Encourage teens to question what they see in the media about body types.
  • Discuss healthy body image — Reassure them that healthy body shapes aren’t uniform. Don’t joke about ANYONE’s looks or use hurtful nicknames based on someone’s appearance.
  • Promote self-esteem — Honor your teen’s accomplishments. Listen to them and look for positive qualities. Let them know you love and accept them unconditionally. It doesn’t matter how they look or what they weigh.
  • Talk about the dangers — Let your teen know it can affect their growth and long-term health. Emotional eating can lead to dangerous conditions. Let them know they can always talk to you about their feelings instead of turning to food.

AltaMed Is Here to Help

AltaMed’s experienced Behavioral Health team is staffed with licensed clinical social workers who speak English and Spanish and are trained to help cope with life’s stressors. Short-term therapy is available, and we can connect members with mental health services if long-term therapy or other support is needed. If you need help talking to a loved one, there are resources available to you. Call us at (855) 425-1777 to get started.

Helping Teens Feel Mentally Healthy