Today, students and teenagers are facing serious mental risks. The increasing number of children being admitted to hospitals for treatment of self-inflicted wounds is an example of the most heartbreaking symptoms of emotional and mental illness in younger individuals.1
Risk Factors for Poor Mental Health in Teenagers and Children
Experts in the field of children’s mental health have proposed a variety of underlying causes for the rise in mental conditions affecting teens and young adults. Psychological symptoms are especially common in the iGen, a term given to those born near or after 1995. Fast-forward 14 or 15 years and social media has arrived on the scene. Coincidence? Experts think not.2
However, social media is merely the tip of a mental health iceberg that includes many more individual factors. For some, the concept of climate change and the prospect that humans are contaminating the planet has proved especially unbearable for young minds and has led to anxieties, sleep disorders, substance abuse, and depression in teenagers and children.3,4
Other modern conveniences such as mobile devices, convenient diet options, and demanding lifestyles add to the list of stressors in a child’s mental and psychological development. Today, at the pinnacle of technological and scientific achievement, it seems something important has been overlooked––and it doesn’t bode well for the great minds of tomorrow.5,6
Mental Disorders Affecting Students and Teenagers
During their formative years, teenagers require a lot of extra love and care—part of this involves parents and guardians being on the lookout for the symptoms of mental illness. Staying close with teenagers establishes reliable bonds of communication. This will make it easier to suggest things, like qualified mental health advice, in the future if it is needed.
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The statistics report that more than half of all mental conditions have their roots in early adolescence, and most of these can be prevented if early diagnosis and proper treatment is applied. The following section provides a brief look at some of the most common mental health issues experienced by students from high school to college age.
The advent of social media has placed great social pressures on brains that are not fully prepared to process and cope with some social situations. There is little doubt that unlimited access to information, communications, and mobile devices has contributed greatly to anxieties in young minds. Facebook and Twitter have been found to cause feelings of “inadequacy” and “jealousy,” according to some studies.7,8
Depression can be an especially difficult condition to identify because it is highly individual, and teenagers are already going through a moody and hormonal stage of life. Statistics show that one in five teenagers will suffer from depression.9
While the good news is that drug abuse is declining, it can still be an issue for teenagers facing other extenuating factors like family crisis or social problems. Drugs and alcohol can be a larger problem for teenagers looking to escape aspects of their life that they feel they can’t change.
It’s important to monitor your child in this respect because the potential for addiction for many of these substances is high. Many teenagers will turn to marijuana and alcohol to self-medicate when facing mental illness.10,11
It is most common to assume that eating disorders include anorexia and bulimia nervosa, but there are many mental health conditions that can impact feeding habits and cause disorders. For instance, overeating and stress-eating can have a serious impact on physical and mental health as time goes by.12
Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is one of the most common mental disorders in children and young teenagers and can even be diagnosed as early as toddler years. No one is absolutely sure what causes ADHD, but there is a wide range of factors that could potentially contribute to ADHD development. These include lead exposure, smoking during pregnancy, and pesticides––interestingly, sugary snacks and video games have not been associated with ADHD development.13,14
As rates of mental health issues in children and teenagers continue to increase, it’s important to truly begin implementing resolutions in order to improve mental health—for everyone, but especially for children and teens. The following are a couple of the practical steps that anyone who cares about the mental health of students and children can apply in their own communities.
Begin with Yourself
Teenagers and children are especially impressionable and take their ideas and standards from external sources until they are mature enough to set them for themselves. One of the best ways to promote mental health in any society or community is to seek it in yourself first. By taking the time to fine-tune mental health, it will be easier to cultivate mental health in those around you.
Talk About It and Fight Stigma
The stigma of mental illness needs to be removed from the equation altogether. If children are more in touch with their levels of mental health, they will be more inclined to speak up when feeling distressed, anxious, or fearful. Increasing awareness isn’t just for parents and teachers either—the perspectives of the entire society must change.15
Cultivate Mental Health
No one wants to feel like they are the only one experiencing their mental struggle, and no one is. Everyone will struggle with their mental health to an extent at some point and have to apply resilience and perhaps outside assistance to surmount the difficulty. It can sometimes help to speak openly about times when your mental resilience was tested, where you went for help, and what your final solution was. You never know how the experiences you faced can ease the experience of someone in a similar situation.16
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