Recently released data shows that older adolescents and young adults with emotional and behavioral health conditions are much more likely to have significant problems with school performance, employment, and housing stability, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
According to the findings, nearly 8 percent of older adolescents (ages 16 to 17) with co-occurring depression and a substance use disorder do not have a stable place to live, moving three or more times in the past year. Among older adolescents with depression and substance use disorder enrolled in school, 13.5 percent have academic difficulties, with a grade average of "D" or lower. These challenges make it difficult for older adolescents with mental and substance use disorders to successfully transition into adulthood.
Young adults (18-25) with co-occurring serious mental illness and substance use disorders are less likely than those without co-occurring disorders to be high school graduates. However, young adults with serious mental illness  who received treatment were more likely to graduate high school than their peers who did not receive treatment.
Having a high school diploma makes a tremendous difference in a young adult’s ability to get a job and earn a living wage. According to the report, young adults with co-occurring serious mental illness and substance use disorders are 1.4 times more likely to be unemployed than their peers without these disorders. When these young adults are able to gain employment, they still have difficulty maintaining a job. The data shows young adults with serious mental illness are 1.7 times more likely than their peers without mental illness to have had more than three employers within the past year.
"This new report demonstrates the critical need for treatment and other services that focus on older adolescents and young adults with mental and substance use disorders," said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. "A new SAMHSA grant program called ‘Healthy Transitions’ -- part of President Obama’s Now Is the Time initiative -- will provide $79.2 million over five years to 16 states, tribes, and territories to improve access to treatment and support services for youth transitioning into adulthood who experience serious mental and/or co-occurring substance use disorders."
SAMHSA funds other grant programs that also focus on youth and young adults. For example, SAMHSA’s Children’s Mental Health Initiative is a proven strategy that funds systems of care to provide coordinated networks of public and private community-based, behavioral health treatment services, and provides opportunities for housing, education, and employment for children, older adolescents, and young adults who experience a serious emotional disturbance or serious mental illness.
 For this 2012 survey, a mental illness is defined as currently or at any time in the past year having had a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder (excluding developmental and substance use disorders) of sufficient duration to meet diagnostic criteria specified within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV; American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1994). Serious mental illness is defined as mental illness that resulted in serious functional impairment, which substantially interfered with or limited one or more major life activities.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.