Mental health is one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. With half of all mental health conditions in adulthood emerging by the age of 14, it is more important than ever to start a conversation about them, especially with teenagers. Unfortunately, while this is so important, there is still a stigma around these issues. So, let’s talk about it.
What Mental Health Issues Affect Teens?
While there are a number of different mental health issues, some common ones include:
Anxiety disorders – Excessive worrying about or overthinking everyday matters, feeling extremely self-conscious and phobias. People with anxiety disorders may also experience panic attacks.
Depression – Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety and/or emptiness, usually accompanied by a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed.
Eating disorders – Categorised by disordered eating symptoms leading to a distorted body image, intense fear of gaining weight, restricting food intake and over-exercising.
What Causes Mental Illness?
Mental health is multilayered, and determined by a variety of factors. Here are just a few:
School or work stress – Being under a lot of pressure at school or work can cause teens to become overwhelmed. They may also struggle figuring out their career path or if they are being bullied.
Relationships – Problems within a relationship can make teens feel confused, hurt and upset – more so when the relationship turns emotionally or physically abusive.
Health – Dealing with ongoing health issues, such as a chronic illness or a disability, can take a toll on their happiness and may cause worries about their future.
Social media – While social media offers many upsides, popular trends and viral posts can give an unrealistic expectation of what their life, body or career should be like. Think about those Instagram models with thousands of followers and seemingly ‘perfect’ lives.
Other factors include substance abuse, social issues, trauma, losing someone close to them and more. Genetics may be at play too.
Signs that Something May Be Off
Many young people feel down sometimes. It’s perfectly normal, especially with all those hormones at play; but sometimes, there may be something bigger happening.
Signs include changes in sleep or energy level, changes in appetite, an out-of-character irritability, lack of interest in fun activities or making self-deprecating comments. If your teen is telling you about their ongoing worries, shutting themselves off or simply not acting like themselves, it’s a good sign that it’s time to seek help.
How You Can Help
You can help your teen tackle their worries by letting them know they can always talk to you, making arrangements with their school to put less stress on them and seeing a health professional. Don’t be too quick to take their phone away, as many teens chat with their friends as a coping mechanism – but encourage them to disconnect every once in a while.
75 per cent of people who receive treatment experience notable improvements. Understand that there is help out there for your child, and remind them that they are never alone in their struggles, and that they are always loved.