Mental health disorders among teens are common. According to the World Health Organisation, about 1 in 7 teenagers experience mental health problems worldwide.
Despite this, awareness about teenage mental health is still lacking. Many parents do not have adequate information about the causes, nature, prevention, and treatment of mental health conditions.
Mental health issues can affect anyone. However, increasing your understanding of mental health can help you to create a protective and supportive environment at home, spot early warning signs of mental illness, and know the best way to support your child. This blog offers eight facts about young people’s mental health to get you started.
Multiple Factors Affect Mental Health
Young people are exposed to many different factors that affect their mental well-being. As a time of biological development, self-discovery, and change, adolescence comes with unique stressors and those relevant to all age groups.
Some factors which can influence mental health include:
- Stress-related to school or exams
- Exploration of identity
- Peer pressure and societal pressure to conform
- Media and gender norms
- Family environment
- Relationships with friends
- Exposure to physical or emotional violence
- Socio-economic conditions
As well as contemporary factors, young people’s mental health depends on past experiences. Early life adversity, including childhood trauma and neglect, makes developing a mental illness more likely. Psychological interventions and additional support can help teens who have experienced early life adversity maintain good mental health.
Anxiety Disorders Are Among the Most Commonly Diagnosed Mental Illnesses In Young People
The World Health Organisation estimates that 3.6% of 10-14 year-olds and 4.6% of 15-19 year-olds may experience an anxiety disorder, such as generalised anxiety disorder or panic disorder.
Anxiety disorders can significantly affect the lives of children and young adults, preventing them from pursuing activities they enjoy, fulfilling their potential, and finding contentment and joy in life. The good news is that anxiety disorders are treatable. Extensive evidence shows that treatments like cognitive-behaviour therapy help young people overcome anxiety and thrive in life.
Some symptoms of anxiety to look out for in teenagers include:
- Expressing excessive worry about one or more issues
- Isolation from friends
- Irritability or trouble sleeping
If you think your child may have an anxiety disorder or another mental health condition, having an open conversation and supporting them to seek, treatment can pave the way to recovery.
Honest Conversations Offer Comfort and Support
When talking about mental health, listen carefully and validate how they feel. Avoid offering them advice or trivialising their experience.
You may like to start the conversation by asking simple questions about your teen’s day or how they are feeling. You can also ask gentle questions to find out how they would like to be supported, such as:
- How can I support you through this?
- Is there anything you need from me?
- Do you want to talk about what’s going on?
Substance Use Disorders Often Begin During Adolescence
Many adults who misuse alcohol or drugs started when they were teens. Young people may use alcohol and drugs as a way to cope with emotional difficulties or because of peer pressure from friends. However, in the long run, substance abuse only exacerbates mental health concerns and puts young people at risk of injury, overdose, and addiction. Moreover, using substances as a teenager increases the chance that they will develop a habit as an adult.
Although the risks of substance abuse among teenagers, alcohol and drug use are widespread in many countries, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that more than 4.2 million young people aged 12-20 in the United States have engaged in binge drinking in the past month.
If you think your teenager may be using alcohol or drugs, you may want an open, honest, and non-judgemental conversation where you express your concerns and encourage them to seek support. You may also want to contact a mental health professional for expert advice on how to proceed.
Suicide and Self-Harm Should Always Be Taken Seriously
Sadly, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death amongst 15-19-year-olds worldwide. In the UK, nearly half of 17-19 year-olds with a diagnosable mental health disorder have self-harmed or attempted suicide at some point. Suicide attempts are widespread among certain mood disorders, including severe depression and bipolar disorder.
It’s important to take suicide and self-harm seriously. If you think that your child may be thinking about suicide, seek professional support. Many helplines are open 24/7 that can offer free and confidential support for you and your child. These include:
Contact the emergency services if you think someone is in immediate danger of taking their own life.
Symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder May Change During Adolescence
If your teen is living with attention-deficit hyperactive disorder, symptoms of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, and impulsiveness may manifest differently as they transition from childhood to adulthood.
For example, children and teenagers with ADHD may be unable to stick to tasks, have difficulty listening to or following instructions, and be easily distracted. They may be unable to sit still, constantly fidget, and not wait for their turn.
As they journey into adulthood, symptoms of hyperactivity tend to decrease, while inattentiveness may remain. ADHD symptoms among adults may express themselves as follows:
- Lack of attention to detail
- Difficulty organising things
- Inability to focus or prioritise
- Continually losing or misplacing things
- Mood swings, irritability and a quick temper
- Inability to deal with stress
Many children and young people taking medication for ADHD stop doing so as they grow older, while some continue to take them. Your doctor or another mental health professional should follow your teen’s experience and adjust any treatment accordingly.
Eating Disorders Are Common Among Adolescents
Many young people experience difficulties eating that significantly disrupt their daily life. Eating disorders usually involve the need to control eating or the desire to get rid of food from the body. Eating disorders can have a variety of causes – they may be rooted in an overvaluation of shape and weight, perfectionism, or many other underlying issues. Bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating are all types of eating disorders.
Eating disorders can seriously affect a young person’s mental health and, in some cases, lead to death. Anorexia nervosa has the highest fatality rate of any mental health disorder. Because of this, it’s essential to take eating problems seriously and not deny or ignore the issue. If you think a teenager has an eating problem, open a conversation and listen to them without judgement. Please encourage them to see a doctor or seek other professional support.
Prevention of Mental Health Among Teens Requires a Multi-Level Approach
Prevention of mental health disorders requires interventions at an individual and societal level. Interventions may help strengthen a young person’s capacity to regulate emotions and build resilience to manage difficult situations. They may also target social structures and institutions, working to develop supportive social environments and provide alternatives to risk-taking behaviours.
Multiple platforms and structures affect a young person’s mental health – including media, health or social settings, schools, home life, and the community. Caring for young people worldwide requires utilising all these structures in different ways. The World Health Organisation recommends avoiding institutionalisation and over-medicalisation while prioritising non-pharmacological approaches is key to protecting adolescents’ mental health.
Transformative Experiences for Young People at The Wave
The Wave Clinic is a mental health care centre like no other. Specifically tailored for young people, we combine clinical support with a gap year experience to provide a transformative program that equips young people to follow their dreams.
Our individualised inside-outside approach identifies the core issues that may affect a young person’s mood and behaviour and helps them to heal from within. At the same time, our centre’s calming yet inspiring environment is full of activities and adventures that support young people in rediscovering their passions and goals. We celebrate culture, diversity, and every achievement of each young person.
We understand what it feels like to be the parent of a teen going through hard times. We ensure you’re involved in the treatment process, updating you on your child’s progress. We also offer family therapy – including “chosen” family members – to help heal relationships and build strong support networks for the future.
If you are concerned about your teen’s mental health, we’re here to help. We can offer confidential and expert advice without judgement and talk you through the available options. Contact our friendly team today.