Breaking Down the Latest Teenage Mental Health Statistics

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Over the past decade, there’s been a huge increase in the number of young people suffering from mental health conditions and we are now in the midst of an extreme mental health crisis. Mental health troubles can have a profound impact on the lives of young people, affecting their well-being, relationships, academic performance, and overall quality of life. Despite increased awareness and efforts to address these issues, the latest statistics suggest that much work still needs to be done.

People are becoming increasingly more aware of the importance of mental health in maintaining overall well-being. Recently, there has been a growing concern about the increasing number of mental health conditions experienced by young people. The causes of mental health conditions in young people are complex and can be influenced by a range of factors such as biology, environment, and society, just to name a few.

The Rise in Mental Health Problems in Young People

In 2022, 18.0% of children aged 7 to 16 years and 22.0% of young people aged 17 to 24 years had some form of mental disorder, indicating a significant increase in recent years. Specifically, rates of mental disorders in children aged 7 to 16 years have risen from 1 in 9 (12.1%). In 2017 to 1 in 6 (16.7%) in 2020, before stabilizing between 2020, 2021 and 2022. Alarmingly, around 75% of these young people are not getting the help they need. These findings highlight the urgent need for effective interventions and support for children and young people who are unable to cope with mental health issues, as well as greater investment and attention in widespread mental health services more broadly.

Furthermore, The World Health Organization also found that young women are more likely to experience mental health issues than young men, with one in five women reporting a common mental health disorder compared to one in eight men. These statistics highlight the urgent need for better support and resources to address young people’s mental health.

Most Common Mental Health Conditions in Young People

 There are several common mental health conditions that affect young people today. Some of them include:

  • Anxiety – this mental health problem can manifest as excessive worry, fear, and panic attacks.
  • Depression – this is a common mental health condition which can cause persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities, and changes in sleep and appetite.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)- this is a well-known condition characterized by symptoms such as impulsivity, hyperactivity, and inattention.
  • Eating disorders – these are also common among young people, particularly teenage girls.
  • Self-harm – occasionally, when some young people experience difficult emotions, they may begin to self-harm.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – this can occur after a stressful or traumatic experience.
  • Substance abuse – this is a growing concern among young people, which can lead to addiction and other mental health problems.
  • Bipolar disorder – this is a mental health issue that can cause extreme mood swings, both of which are characterized by either mania or hypomania.
  • Schizophrenia – this is a serious mental disorder in which people can feel disconnected from reality. Schizophrenia can cause severe hallucinations, delusions, and extremely disordered thinking.

Understanding these mental health conditions and their symptoms is critical for early detection and treatment, which can improve the lives of affected individuals and prevent further mental health complications.

Do Certain Children Have a Greater Probability of Encountering Mental Health Difficulties?

Certain risk factors may make some children and young adults more susceptible to developing mental health conditions. However, experiencing these factors does not necessarily mean that a child will inevitably, or even probably, develop mental health issues.

 These risk factors include:

  • Having a chronic physical illness.
  • A parent with a known history of mental health problems, alcoholism, or legal issues.
  • The loss of someone significant in their life.
  • Separation or divorce of parents.
  • Experiencing severe bullying or physical or sexual abuse.
  • Facing poverty or homelessness.
  • Being discriminated against.
  • Taking on adult responsibilities, such as caring for a relative.
  • Experiencing long-term academic difficulties.

Factors That Have Contributed to the Increase in Mental Health Disorders in Young People

There are numerous factors that currently affect children’s mental health and are significantly making their mental health worse. One of the most significant factors is the growing pressure and expectations that young people face today, and many young people feel pressure to fit in or please other people at the expense of their own happiness. Academic competition, social media, and the increasing demands of the modern world can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety and other prominent mental health issues.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted adolescents’ mental health. The pandemic has led to social isolation, increased uncertainty and fear, and disrupted routines, which can all contribute to mental health issues. The pandemic has also exacerbated pre-existing mental health problems among young people, increasing the statistics for young people’s mental health dramatically.

Another factor contributing to the increase in mental health conditions among young people is the stigma surrounding mental health. Unfortunately, many young people feel ashamed or embarrassed to discuss their mental health problems with others, which can prevent them from seeking help. Furthermore, mental health resources may be inadequate or inaccessible for young people, particularly in marginalized communities, and they may not be able to access mental health support. The lack of resources and stigma surrounding mental health can exacerbate the negative impact of other risk factors, such as poverty or violence. Addressing these contributing factors and promoting mental health awareness and access to resources can help mitigate the rise of mental health problems in young people.

Signs That a Child or Young Person May Be Struggling With Their Mental Health

The mental health of a child is equally important as their physical well-being, and often young individuals with mental health issues such as anxiety and depression do not receive the necessary support. This could be due to the child concealing their feelings, with subtle signs being the only indication of their struggles.

If a child under your care displays the following behaviours, it may suggest that they require additional mental health support:

  • Reluctance to attend school and a decline in academic performance.
  • An increase in medically unexplained symptoms like headaches, stomach aches or chest pains.
  • Persistently low mood for more than two weeks.
  • Poor sleep, feeling constantly tired, or changes in appetite leading to rapid weight loss or gain.
  • Social isolation.
  • Lack of self-care.
  • Showing hopelessness about the future.
  • Negative self-talk.
  • An increase in irritability.
  • Recklessness or aggression.
  • A sad or worried appearance or lack of expression.

It is also essential to keep an eye out for unusual marks on a child, such as unexplained scars, cuts, or swelling, which may indicate mental health issues. This may become more apparent if the young person begins to cover up their body or declines physical examinations.

Supporting a Young Person

Supporting a child or young person who has a mental health condition can be a challenging experience, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Firstly, it is important to provide a safe and supportive environment where young people can feel comfortable sharing their feelings and experiences.

This involves:

  • Active listening
  • Showing empathy
  • Being non-judgmental
  • Encouraging them to take part in positive activities
  • Keeping calm and focused when they are speaking
  • Not taking things personally if they act defiantly
  • Discussing the treatment options available and mental health care for them

In a supportive environment, a young person may be more likely to seek professional help when needed and feel empowered to take steps towards their recovery.

Additionally, it can be helpful to educate oneself about the specific mental health condition that the young person you are helping is experiencing, as well as how to provide practical and emotional support. With the right resources and support, you can help them to feel empowered to take control of their mental health and work towards recovery.

Mental Health Support at The Wave Clinic

At The Wave Clinic, we offer a supportive and transformative environment that aims to help young people fully recover from their mental health conditions in a relaxed setting and go on to lead rewarding and fulfilling lives. All of our treatment programmes are fully personalized, combining a range of medical, clinical, educational, and fun experiences to help set young people up for the future, giving them the skills they need to build the kind of life they want. Contact us today to discover more about the treatment options we have available to you.

Further reading can be found via our blog The Effects of Divorce on Children.

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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