Draft - November 2014


Child Abuse ImageTransitional age youth are young people moving from adolescence to young adulthood. New tasks often include: moving away from family, becoming independent, developing one’s identity, and learning to handle more complex relationships. For this age group, handling these tasks while adjusting to the start of college and/or moving into the working world can be challenging.

Making this transition with mental health issues may lead to an existing problem getting worse or triggering new problems. The need for support and treatment can be very important, but other factors, such as the stigma attached to mental illness, not knowing where to go, and finding health insurance can make it difficult for people to get help.

Families can play a critical role in helping young people see they are having a problem and encouraging them to get help. Families can also help transitioning youth find the mental health resources on their college campus, at their place of work, or in their community. For those who started treatment at a younger age, it will be helpful if plans that meet their needs are in place before they leave for college, start a job, or move out on their own. With the right support and treatment, transitional age youth with mental health issues can succeed at the tasks that are a normal part of becoming successful, independent adults.

Choose a topic:

frequently asked questions
  1. What steps should be taken to get ready for college or work if you have a mental health issue?
  2. How do you know when help is needed?
  3. How do you find mental health providers at college or nearby in the community?
  4. What are the rights of young adults in regard to keeping health care information confidential and the rights of parents in regard to getting health care information about their adult children?
  5. Are there tips that can help with treatment compliance, e.g. taking medication as recommended and/or keeping therapy appointments?
  6. What can be done when a young adult doesn’t want or see the need for help?


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facts for families

AACAP's Facts for Families provide concise up-to-date information about a variety of issues that affect children, adolescents and families. The following Facts for Families contain information that is especially pertinent to transitional age youth:

Child Abuse Image Talking About Mental Illness

When to Seek Help

Where to Find Help

Understanding Your Mental Health Insurance

Psychiatric Medication for Children and Adolescents

Self-Injury in Adolescents

Teen Suicide

College Students with ADHD

Transitioning from High School to College with a Psychiatric Diagnosis: Preparation

Preventing Misuse and Diversion of Medication

Starting College with a Psychiatric Illness


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video clips

“In Our Own Words”
A series of videos of youth and young adult advocates talking about their experiences with mental illness.

More "In Our Own Words" videos:

This information should not be taken as medical advice, which can only be given to you by your personal health care professionals.

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clinical resources

Youth Tip Sheet

This Tip Sheet was developed to provide guidance for how child and adolescent psychiatrists can more effectively communicate and partner with young people.

AACAP Practice Parameters

Considered resources for mental health professionals and physicians, AACAP’s practice parameters were developed to guide clinical and treatment decision-making. They represent the best treatment options available to individuals and families living mental illness.

Other Resources
Tips for teens graduating from high school (American Academy of Pediatrics)

Resources for college and career readiness from the National High School Center

Heading to College:

  • The Transition Year - Help with getting prepared for going to college for both students and parents
  • College Guide for Students with Disabilities - Guidance for transitioning to college with a disability, including a college readiness checklist on pages 20-21
  • Active Minds - Peer support for students on campuses nationwide. Goals of reducing the stigma and educating others around mental health issues
  • NAMI on Campus - Student led mental health awareness and advocacy

Heading to Work:


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research and training

Scientific Articles and Information

Copeland, W.E., et al (2014)
Longitudinal Patterns of Anxiety from Childhood to Adulthood: The Great Smoky Mountains Study. JAACAP 53(1): 21-33.

Wilens, T. & Rosenbaum, J. (2013)
Transitional Aged Youth: A New Frontier in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP 52(9): 887-890.

Roux, A.M., et al (2013)
Postsecondary Employment Experiences Among Young Adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. JAACAP 52(9): 931-939.

Derenne, J. (2013)
Successfully Launching Adolescents with Eating Disorders to College. JAACAP 52 (6): 559-561.

Howlin, P., et al (2013)
Social Outcomes in Adults with Autism. JAACAP 52 (6): 572-581.

Ramos, M.A., et al (2013)
Does Childhood Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder Predict Risk-Taking and Medical Illnesses in Adulthood? JAACAP 52(2): 153-162.

Copeland, W.E., et al (2011)
Cumulative Prevalence of Psychiatric Disorders by Young Adulthood: A Prospective Cohort Analysis From the Great Smoky Mountains Study. JAACAP 50(3): 252-261.


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Mental Health Issues and the University Student
Iarovici, D. (2014)

Mental Health Care in the College Community
Kay, J. & Schwartz, V. (2010)

Chasing the High: A Firsthand Account of One Young Person’s Experience with Substance Abuse
Keegan, K. & Moss, H. (2008)

Binge: What Your College Student Won’t Tell You
Seaman, B. (2007)

Evidence-Based Psychotherapy Practice in College Mental Health
Cooper, S. (2005)

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getting help

Child Abuse ImageTaking control of your mental health and getting the help and support you need are among the most important things you can do on the road to becoming a successful adult. The support of family and friends can be a critical part of this process. Help is available in a number of different forms and from many sources.

  • If you’re in school, check your college’s website for information on student health and wellness, counseling services, and disability resources.
  • If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless and having thoughts of suicide, there are many sources of help and support:

Related Websites

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - Advocacy for access to services, treatment, and research for Americans affected by mental illness
  • Strength of Us - An online community created by NAMI specifically for young adults with mental illness to offer support and share resources
  • GotTransition - Support for transitioning from pediatric to adult health care


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