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14 signs of possible mental illness in youth and how to help

As we settle into 2013, the aftermath of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary is still very unsettling for many of us who are asking how we can help prevent something like this from ever happening again; hence the recent gun law debates and changes in gun laws.

But how can we help individually? One way is to educate ourselves on the signs of mental illness in teens or young adults and how to help the person who may be ill.

Here are 14 signs that teens or young adults might possibly have a mental illness or problem:

* Feelings of worthlessness

* Anxious and feelings of intense worry or sadness

* Extreme fear and/or unexplained fear

* Changes in school -- grades/behavior

* Loss of interest in normal activities/hobbies/leisure activities -- social isolation

* Lack of interest in family, friends, etc.

* Changes in sleep patterns or eating habits (too much or too little)

* Increased mood swings, anger, irritability and/or impulsiveness

* Loss of focus and concentration

* Talking about suicide

* Obsessive dieting or extreme exercising

* Destroys property and breaks the law

* Uses alcohol or drugs

* Hears voices

If you suspect a mental illness/problem in a teen or young adult

Have someone close to that person (friend or family member) approach them and let them know they are concerned about them.

* Be non-judgmental, calm, caring and empathic.

* Let them know there is help available.

* Give them resources of local agencies/therapists that can help (or as a parent of a teen look up resources yourself to get help),

* Let them know mental illness is treatable.

Meet Diane Lang

Pictured at the left, Diane Lang - Positive Living Expert and psychotherapist - is a nationally recognized author, educator, speaker, therapist and media expert. Lang offers expertise on a variety of health and wellness topics about creating balance and finding happiness through positive living.

In addition to holding multiple counseling positions, Diane is also an adjunct professor at Montclair State University. Lang has been interviewed for numerous magazine and newspaper articles and has been a frequent guest on radio and TV shows. Lang is the author of two books: "Baby Steps: The Path from Motherhood to Career" and "Creating Balance and Finding Happiness."