n South African Medical Journal - Update on adolescent mental health : CME

Volume 106, Issue 6
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



Adolescence is a period of significant physical, social and emotional change and therefore a vulnerable period for the development of mental illness. Many psychiatric disorders have their onset during adolescence. Approximately 20% of children have a mental health disorder, but the majority of disorders are not detected and treated. Risk factors for mental illness include: genetic vulnerability, neurobiological factors and psychosocial stressors. Common mental disorders during this period are mood, anxiety and substance related, with adolescents often presenting with comorbidity. Healthcare practitioners should screen for adolescent mental illness and associated suicide risk. Brief screening tools such as the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire are useful in detecting mood and anxiety disorders in primary care settings. While there is increasing evidence for the efficacy of psychotropic medications in adolescents, more research is still required. Management of adolescent mental health problems generally requires a combination of psychotropic medication and psychosocial interventions. Early intervention and support in an integrated medical and psychiatric healthcare system is required.

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