Mental Health, Substance Abuse and the Millennial Generation: What Do Youth Need to Promote Recovery?

Photograph of two young people sitting on a porch and laughing.

If you've read our most recent issue of NCFY Reports, "Beyond Addiction: Understanding and Treating Substance Abuse in Young People," you might be interested in other resources on the topic. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration's latest webcast, ”Young Adults in Recovery: Meeting the Needs of the ‘Millennial Generation',” features a moderated panel of four experts, including two young people who share how their own lives were impacted by mental health and substance use disorders. We watched the recorded webcast to find some of the key themes that may be of interest to family and youth workers. Here are some highlights:

1. Bring recovery into the conversation. Youth are entering treatment young and younger, but many do not understand that treatment is followed by an ongoing process of recovery. Schools can help bridge the gap, says Ben Chin, co-founder of an advocacy organization for recovery policy, by incorporating developmentally appropriate services for prevention, treatment and recovery into the academic setting.

2. Think beyond mental illness. Not all young people face mental illness, but everyone experiences mental health, according to Alison Malmon, founder of student empowerment organization Active Minds, Inc. Talking to children about their feelings at an early age and teaching them about basic coping strategies, she says, can lead to more open conversations during adolescence.

3. Don’t underestimate peer support. The panelists emphasized peer support as a way for young people to explore their independence while knowing they can fall back on their social network. Peer support is especially important for young people who need social outlets free of drugs and alcohol and for youth whose family members are battling similar concerns.

4. Find the balance between structure and flexibility. Young people in recovery need to feel supported even if they relapse or miss appointments, says Vannasang Souksavath, ladder project coordinator at the Institute for Health & Recovery in Cambridge, MA. But they also crave structure through daily routines and stable adult relationships, even if they don’t always recognize their desire for consistency.

Watch the webcast, or listen to the audio version. In September, SAMHSA will host Recovery Month 2013 to promote the idea that recovery from mental and substance use disorders is possible.

9-5 pm Eastern