The Mental Health Crisis Among Teenage Girls And How Brands Can Help

Alana Sandel is a Chief Experience Officer at Marketing For Wellness, the agency committed to supporting brands that stand for well-being.

In a world where teenagers are constantly bombarded with unrealistic expectations and societal pressures, it’s no wonder that there is a mental health crisis among teenagers. According to the National Institutes of Health (via Healthychildren.org), nearly 1 in 3 adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder, while a Pew Research Center analysis found that in 2017, 13% of U.S. teens ages 12 to 17 (or 3.2 million) said they had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Disturbingly, in a study published in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics, 11% of adolescents reported self-harm behaviors (without suicidal ideation or attempts). About one-third of U.S. high school girls have seriously considered attempting suicide, according to a 2021 CDC survey (via CBS News). Contributing factors to the decision to commit suicide for teenagers may include “feelings of stress, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, disappointment, and loss.” This convergence of influences can severely impact the mental well-being of this vulnerable population.

As the founder of Marketing For Wellness, I believe that marketers have an important role to play in helping Americans to be well. This includes helping teenage girls who are struggling to find meaning and explanations about external factors affecting their lives.

Many large and trendy brands have a significant following of teenage girls, and they have an opportunity to impact their lives with meaningful self-care and mental health initiatives.

Elements To Address

One critical aspect of addressing the mental health crisis among teenage girls is providing resources for self-care and nourishment. While the term “self-care” has become a trendy buzzword, it holds genuine significance for promoting mental well-being. If brands help them understand why self-care is essential and implement it in their lives, teenage girls can develop resilience and effectively cope with the challenges they face.

Encouraging healthy coping mechanisms is a great place to start. Instead of encouraging unhealthy behaviors such as emotional eating or excessive screen time, brands can work to inspire girls to try activities like journaling, painting, engaging in physical exercise or pursuing hobbies that bring them joy and help them release pent-up emotions.

Strategies For Addressing Teen Mental Health

Brands can play a crucial role in encouraging self-care and promoting healthy coping mechanisms among young girls. They can do this by promoting self-care, advocating for balanced lifestyles, and fostering body positivity. They can also collaborate with mental health professionals, engage in community outreach, expand their product offerings, and collaborate with influencers and role models.

By implementing these strategies, brands can actively contribute to the well-being of young girls, empower them to develop healthy coping mechanisms, and create a positive impact within their communities.

Brands should emphasize the power of nutrition as an ingredient for addressing mental health. Many school cafeterias do not provide optimal nourishment; instead, I’ve seen them offer fast food items such as French fries, pizza and other foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates on a daily basis. The median cost for lunch for the 2022/2023 school year was $2.75 for an elementary school and $3 for a middle or high school, according to the School Nutrition Association (2023).

Yet one 2013 meta-analysis published in the Annals of Neurology found that the Mediterranean diet—which emphasizes fresh fruits and veggies, fish, whole grains, olive oil and beans and nuts—found that this diet is correlated with a reduced risk of depression.

In the past, my agency has successfully implemented nutrition and cooking classes in preschools to engage kids with games and content about the importance of gut health. Our brand ambassadors have also inspired kids to make delicious snacks with probiotic-loaded kefir.

Practical Tips For Making An Impact

To identify initiatives aligned with their business goals, brands should thoroughly understand their values, target audience and mission. Market research helps identify opportunities that resonate with customers, such as promoting healthy eating habits. Collaborating with local organizations, like schools and farms, can enable brands to improve food quality and prioritize student well-being. Evaluating supply chain practices, like sourcing locally and implementing sustainability, can help brands improve the nutritional value of their products and enhance consumer trust. Cause marketing, through campaigns and collaborations with influencers, can allow them to raise awareness and expand the reach of their initiatives.

To maximize the reach of these initiatives, brands should leverage social media platforms to share updates, stories and educational content, which can help foster a sense of community around the cause. Partnering with influencers and ambassadors who are passionate about well-being and sustainability can help brands amplify the message to a broader audience. Measuring and sharing the impact of initiatives, including improvements in student well-being and engagement, transparently demonstrates their effectiveness and encourages others to join. Engaging in community events and sponsorships further expands initiative reach while building relationships with the community. By maintaining consistency, authenticity and genuine commitment, brands can establish themselves as leaders in promoting a healthier and more sustainable future.

In conclusion, brands have a crucial role to play in addressing the mental health crisis among teenage girls and promoting overall well-being. By prioritizing self-care, healthy coping mechanisms, and nutrition in their work and messaging, brands can empower young girls and contribute to their mental wellness. This is an opportunity to make a lasting impact on their lives and create happier, healthier communities.


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