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Pregnant Teens and Mental Health

Teen Parent Resources

Some Facts about Female Teens

  • Young women experiencing mental illness face many risks and challenges, including victimization, abusive relationships, financial and sexual exploitation, substance abuse, sexually transmitted disease, unexpected pregnancies and significant problems with parenting.
  • Pregnancy rates in young women with emotional disorders run as high as 50%, compared to the national average of 17%.
  • Young women are about twice as likely as young men to suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Postpartum depression can disable some women and may also be preceded by undetected depression.
  • More than 90% of people in the U.S. who have eating disorders are young women.
  • Serious delinquency and multiple drug use are related to a high risk of pregnancy and are associated with self-reported mental health problems.

Warning Signs


  • Persistently feels sad and hopeless
  • Feels very angry most of the time, cries a lot, and overreacts to things
  • Feels worthless or guilty frequently
  • Acutely anxious
  • Unable to get over a loss or death of someone important
  • Extremely fearful
  • Constantly concerned about physical problems or physical appearance
  • Feels like her mind is being controlled or is out of control

Changes in Behavior

  • Does much worse in school
  • Loses interest in things she/he usually enjoys
  • Has unexplained changes in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Avoids friends or family and wants to be alone all the time
  • Daydreams too much and can't get things done
  • Feels life is too hard to handle or talks about suicide
  • Hears voices that cannot be explained
  • Poor concentration - can¿t make decisions
  • Unable to sit still or focus attention
  • Worries about being harmed, hurting others, or about doing something "bad"
  • Feels the need to wash, clean things, or perform certain routines dozens of times a day
  • Has thoughts that race almost too fast to follow
  • Has persistent nightmares

Problem-Causing Behaviors

  • Uses alcohol or other drugs
  • Eats large amounts of food and then vomits, abuses laxatives or takes enemas to avoid weight gain
  • Continues to diet and/or exercise obsessively although bone-thin
  • Constantly violates the rights of others or breaks the law without regard for other people
  • Does things that can be life-threatening.

Treatments That May Help

  • Individual, family, group and/or behavior therapy
  • Special camp programs
  • Education programs and tutoring
  • Medication
  • Day treatment
  • Crisis care

Teen pregnancy intervention/prevention needs to move away from traditional categorical approaches to be a comprehensive community approach. Prevention and intervention activities will be most effective if the focus is on the predictors of the behavior and not on the behavior itself. By the time an individual¿s behavior becomes very problematic to herself and the community, she may already be involved in a variety of health-threatening behaviors. Studies have shown that sexually active youths may have significant mental health problems that need treatment. Services need to go beyond provision of contraception/health care to help the youths deal with their social and mental health needs, as well.

Three out of four high-risk children can be identified early, because they exhibit school-related problems by the second grade. Children who show early signs of depression and/or conduct disorder should be assessed for mental health problems.

Where to Get Mental Health Services for Teens

  • Project Fresh Light (
  • Contact your local Department of Human Services or Department of Community Programs and ask for a clinical or mental health supervisor.
  • For free information about mental health - including publications, references, and referrals to local and national resources - call the federal Center for Mental Health Services at (800) 789-2647.


The sources for this fact sheet are the Bureau of Community Mental Health in the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services and the U.S. Center for Mental Health Services. More information can be obtained at