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mental health is...

  • Health, we all have it!
  • Something that impacts how you think, feel and act
  • Important to look after and care for, just like physical health
  • Evolving and complex
  • Positive and negative

mental health is not...

  • Weakness
  • Shameful
  • Always feeling happy
  • Something you decide you have
  • The same as mental illness.

Featured Teen Blog of the Month

It’s About the Effort

By Ben Sabin
After the first three weeks of being in high school I was despondent, my self-esteem was completely shot, and I felt like my reputation, which I had cultivated for years, was crumbling around me. Now, looking back upon it, I am astounded with how distorted my understanding was that quizzes, tests, and grades defined one’s life.

Read More

More Teen mental health blogs

JCC Teen Mental Health Committee Recommendations


Classic Playlist (Apple Music)
Chill, Chill, Chill Playlist (Spotify)
This is Reneé Rapp (Spotify)


• Gilmore Girls
• How I Met Your Mother
• New Girl
• The Good Place
• Victorious

• Booksmart
• How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
• Lemonade Mouth
• Little Women
• Matilda
• Pitch Perfect
• Top Gun

Mindfulness & Wellness Apps

mind doc app logoMindDoc

Supports you on your journey toward better mental health.
iOS | Android

calm app logoCalm

Offers exercises to help manage anxiety.
iOS | Android

i love hue app logoI Love Hue

Color-based gameplay that creates a feeling of serenity
iOS | Android

happy color app logoHappy Color

Free coloring game
iOS | Android

fabulous app logoFabulous

Helps you create positive habits and self-care routines
iOS | Android

talkspace app logoTalkspace

Connects you to a wide network of mental health professionals.
iOS | Android

happify app logoHappify

Science-backed games that help reduce stress, build resilience, and overcome negative thoughts.
iOS | Android

teen talkTeen Talk

Free and anonymous support from trained teen advisors
iOS | Android | Learn More

Recommended Podcasts

she persisted

She Persisted Podcast

THE teen mental health podcast—made for teens, by a teen.

she persistedYour Life Sucks Podcast

Raw discussions about mental health, created for teens, by teens.


Daily Strategies to Support Your Mental Health

Supporting your mental health means finding balance in key areas of your life including your physical health, social experiences, commitment to school and extracurriculars, and emotional wellbeing. Here are some daily strategies to support your overall mental health.

Physical HealthGet regular exerciseReleases feel-good endorphins and serotonin that improve your overall mood
  • Take a brisk 20-minute walk
  • Go up and down your stairs 2x when you go to get something
Eat a balanced diet Delivers energy slowly and keeps your sugar levels steady
  • Eat at least 3 meals a day with a variety of fresh produce, protein, whole grains, and healthy fats (avocado, olive oil)
  • Choose healthy snacks such as vegetables and fruits, or baked snacks instead of fried
  • Drink plenty of water instead of soft drinks, sugary juices, or sports drinks
Sleep 9-10 hours a night Teens need a lot of sleep! Sleeping restores the brain through a process of pruning (getting rid of unused information) and myelination (improving the coordination and speed of the brain), which strengthen the pre-frontal cortex (area of the brain responsible for focus, organization, controlling impulses, regulating emotions)
  • Engage in relaxing things like taking a bath, listening to music, or reading a book about an hour before bed
  • Have a regular bedtime and wake time during the week and weekends
  • Screens can affect our brain’s ability to sleep, so turn of phones and laptops an hour before bed
Social ExperiencesEngage in healthy habits with social media Social media is a great way to connect with people, learn new skills, and stay informed. However, spending more than 3 hours on social media per day increases your risk for mental health problems
  • Use the “do not disturb” function when you need to focus on other activities
  • Follow people and pages that bring you joy
  • Think before you post (Is it true/kind, would you say it in person? Will you feel good about it tomorrow?)
Stay connected with positive relationships, resist the urge to isolate. Isolation is linked to poor sleep, suicidal thoughts, difficulty paying attention, and increased stress
  • Volunteer with community organizations
  • Surround yourself with people that are supportive, and you trust
Establish boundariesHealthy relationships decrease stress and actually leads to a longer life
  • Say no to things that make you uncomfortable
  • Know that you are not responsible for other’s emotions

School & ExtracurricularCreate school/life balanceEstablishing a good school/life balance helps to conserve your emotional energy and boosts self-esteem
  • Decide what is a manageable workload, you don’t have to take every AP class
  • Schedule time for self-care
Get OrganizedBeing organized decreases feelings of stress and anxiety and improves focus and productivity
  • Use a planner or app to keep track of schoolwork and deadlines
  • Break big projects into parts
  • Clean out your backpack every few days
Emotional WellbeingIdentify and practice coping strategies that work for you such as mindfulness, deep breathing, listening to music, or reading positive affirmations (even if they make you uncomfortable) Mindfulness promotes positive change in the brain pathways involved in stress, focus and attention, memory, and mood

Slow breaths increase the amount of oxygen in the brain, releasing a sense of calm in the body

Music is linked to lowering the levels of cortisol (stress hormone)

Positive affirmations activate the reward centers of the brain
  • Acknowledge and accept all feelings “I feel anxious and that is okay”
  • Breathe in for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, breathe out for 3 seconds
  • Listen to our teen curated playlists on this webpage
  • Find a personal mantra “I am enough”

Spend time outdoors Nature generates positive emotions such as calmness, joy, and creativity
  • Schedule outdoor time into your daily routine
  • Take a phone call while going for a walk

Interact with animals Animals decrease cortisol and blood pressure
  • Volunteer at a shelter
  • Walk a neighbor’s dog
  • Go to a dog park

  • Seek help from a professional, you do not need to be in crisis to get help About 75% of people who engage in therapy see benefits in their overall functioning
    • Ask your parents or school counselor to help you find a therapist
    • Look at the resource section on this webpage for referrals

    Mindful Moment

    Did you know that simple things like smiling have been proven to activate tiny molecules in your brain that are designed to fight off stress? Small things can have a big impact! Try this mindful exercise to give your brain a little boost!

    Breathing slowly helps to trick our brain into thinking we’re calm. But a lot of times people take short shallow breaths when they’re upset, which makes us feel more disregulated. Shape breathing can help slow us down and tracing a shape lets our brain focus on something else. Practicing this activity when you are calm is important, so you’re more likely to do it when stressed.

    Staff Self-Care Favorites

    Take a moment and try one of these calming and relaxing strategies hand-picked by our JCC Chicago staff. Practice self-care daily to improve your mood and manage stress.

    For me, maintaining my mental health is an ongoing process. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s particularly difficult. When I feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety, I like to take out my notes app on my phone and have a stream of consciousness journaling session. This helps me take whatever is going on in my head and make it real by describing my feelings and emotions in as many words as I need to. I also like to make a list of everything that I can control directly so I can focus on those things and not let the uncontrollable factors control me. These simple things allow me to be able to wrap my head around what I’m thinking about and that gives me the ability to take a step back and view the situation from a broader perspective. I also make it a point to take time for myself and enjoy my favorite hobbies and see my friends. Having a good work/life balance is crucial to both your personal success and professional success because if you are too invested in one area, the other is lacking.

    Sam Bolen
    Teen Engagement Coordinator, JCC Chicago


    Finding Help & Resources

    Remember mental health IS health and you need to care for it just like your physical health.

    Some things to consider:

    • You don’t have to wait for a crisis to get support. Asking for help can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t want to talk with your parents about it.
    • Talking with a school counselor or social worker can be a great place to start and they don’t necessarily have to tell your parents.
    • Did you know that there is a law that allows youth under the age of 18 to attend eight counseling sessions without parental consent? Mental Health Law for Minors


    FREE 24/7 Crisis Hotlines
    national suicide prevention lifeline logoNational Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    Call 988
    crisis text line logoCrisis Textline
    Text HOME to 741741
    the trevor projectThe Trevor Project (for LGBTQ+ youth)
    Call 866-488-7386 or text START to 678678


    Individual and Group Counseling

    These organizations may ask for your insurance information and may charge for counseling services.


    Financial Assistance for Counseling


    Substance Use
    illinois helpline logoIllinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances
    Call 833-234-6343 or text HELP to 833234


    Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence
    between friends
    (crisis and free counseling support for survivors of domestic violence)


    Shelter for Youth

    If you are under 18 and need a place to stay tonight.

    national runaway safeline logoNational Runaway Safeline
    Call 1-800-786-2929


    Help Determining Which Kind of Support Needed
    nami logoNAMI Helpline: (833) 626-4244
    Call for yourself or others to get connected to the right mental health and social service resources.
    Monday through Friday             9am – 8pm
    Saturday and Sunday                 9am – 5pm

    ask an expertJust Have A Question?

    Ask questions ANONYMOUSLY about mental health, relationships, academic pressures and more and Sam Savin, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at JCC Chicago, will answer all appropriate questions on Instagram and on the Ask an Expert webpage.

    Learn More

    Get Involved!

    JCC Teen Mental Health Committee

    Join the JCC Teen Mental Health Committee to get involved in leadership, advocacy, and wellness initiatives in support of your peers.

    • Provide input on social media content and online resources
    • Help plan and promote wellness events
    • Flexible time commitment


    For more information about JCC teen and youth mental health services please contact Sam Savin at

    Follow us on Instagram @jcc.chicagoteens


    Please Note: The contents of this webpage are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a mental health professional or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Links to other websites or resources do not constitute an endorsement of these sites or services. In the event of an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis or having suicidal thoughts, text or dial 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.