When someone – especially a young person – is struggling with their mental health, support and understanding are key to helping them feel seen, loved, and heard. Society has come a long way, and mental illness is no longer seen as alien. Even with all this acknowledgement and awareness, stigmas and common misconceptions continue to circulate. This is especially damaging to a young person’s self-image and confidence and can have a significant impact on the way they interact with others and their outlook on life.
Here, we’ll be exploring some of the most common mental health myths in young people.
What Is Mental Health?
It is easy to tell if someone has a broken leg or hurt their arm, but it can be a lot trickier to know if someone is struggling with their mental health. Unlike physical health, mental health is all internal – it is your psychological, emotional, and social wellbeing. It’s the way you act, see yourself, and experience emotions.
Mental health disorders can occur at any age, though they usually start developing in childhood. Biological factors like genes and brain chemistry can cause mental health issues to develop, as can traumatic experiences or a family history of mental health problems.
What Is Classified as a Mental Health Condition?
Mental health conditions are classified as conditions that negatively affect someone’s emotions, thinking, and behaviour, causing abnormal thoughts and perceptions to develop. Poor mental health is often trickier to spot than physical illness, but there are a few common signs to look out for, including:
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Social isolation
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Persistent feelings of anxiety, sadness, emptiness, numbness, anger, or hopelessness
- Self-harm thoughts or behaviours
- Mood swings
It’s important to remember that these are all very generalised symptoms. From bipolar disorder and anxiety to major depression, every mental health condition will exhibit its own individual and unique symptoms.
It’s also important to differentiate regular, everyday experiences and feelings from actual medical symptoms. Feeling sad doesn’t necessarily mean you have depression, just as experiencing bouts of mild anxiety doesn’t mean you have an anxiety disorder. It’s always best to get a proper check-up and diagnosis from a GP – this way, you’ll be able to get the treatment you need.
Young People and Mental Health: Why Is It Important?
Dispelling the stigma and spreading awareness about mental health is important, no matter the circumstances. But it’s essential in the case of children and young adults. They’re at a stage in their lives when so much is changing – friendships, bodies, minds, who they think they are, and school. This makes them particularly vulnerable to mental health problems, so it’s key for those around them to make them feel like they can open up and seek treatment.
When stigmas and misinformation about mental illness are spread, seeking treatment is much more difficult. Young people might worry about getting bullied or excluded. They might even see it as a sign of weakness or a personal failing. Mental health challenges can also be more easily overcome at a younger age, helping to prevent symptoms from developing or worsening as they get older.
When young people feel like they can’t open up or seek expert advice and help, they might bottle up their feelings and emotions. This isn’t healthy and can make matters worse, leading to suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. Young people need to feel safe enough and supported to seek treatment and help as soon as they recognise the first signs of mental illness.
Five Common Mental Health Myths Debunked:
People With Mental Health Problems Are Just Fishing For Attention
Many people seem to believe that mental health problems – particularly among young people – are a cry for attention or the result of bad parenting. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While hormonal fluctuations can cause mood swings and other emotional ups and downs, mental illness is very different. It is invasive and persistent, often lasting for days at a time. It is also important to remember that everybody responds differently to mental health conditions. Some might bottle up their feelings while others will act out. Young people suffering from mental health problems need support, not judgment, from their peers.
Mental Health Problems Are a Personality Flaw or a Sign of Weakness
If a young person is suffering from a mental health condition, it is also vital that the parents and guardians do not blame themselves. It’s also just as important that young people don’t blame themselves or see their mental health problems as a personality flaw or sign of personal weakness. Mental disorders are complex and can be caused by many factors, including:
- Biological factors (i.e., genetics and or a family history of mental illness)
- Unhealthy habits
- Brain chemistry
- Substance abuse
- Chronic illness
There are also a lot of stereotypes about the kind of personality type that suffers from mental health problems. The truth is, there’s no such thing as a certain ‘personality type’ that is more prone to mental illness than others. Mental health is shaped by a person’s experiences, emotions, and environment, not their personality.
Young People Can Never Recover From a Mental Health Problem
While it’s true that not all mental health problems are curable, most can be managed with an appropriate treatment plan. In some cases, individuals can experience a complete recovery from mental illness – this is true in the case of conditions like anxiety and depression. Though both of these conditions can be overcome, not everyone will be able to make a full recovery. If someone is suffering from severe mental illness, for example, they may need ongoing clinical care, therapy, and medication to make their condition more manageable.
If a young person gets the treatment, support, and care they need early, they’ll have much better chances of developing into a healthy adult even if their condition isn’t curable. This is because they’ll have all the resources (and, in some cases, medication) they need to continue living a happy and fulfilling life. They’ll also know and understand their condition and triggers better, making it easier for them to manage their disorder and better cope with whatever they’re dealing with.
I Can’t Help My Friend if They Have a Mental Health Problem
As outlined above, mental health problems are manageable even if they’re not curable. As an outsider, it might seem like you can’t do anything, but simple words and actions add up and can mean a lot. Simply showing support is an excellent way of letting your friend know that you care about them and that they’re not alone. You may even be able to convince them to get the treatment they need or accompany them on appointments or medication pick-ups.
Other ways in which you can help your friend include:
- Learning more about their mental disorder and understanding its nuances and complexities
- Treating them as you would treat any of your other friends
- Using appropriate terms and steering clear of triggering language like ‘crazy’ or ‘mad’
Popular People and Those With Good Grades Don’t Suffer From Mental Health Problems
It is easy to look at people – especially those who seem to have it all – and imagine their life must be great. That they are free from problems and worries. That they couldn’t possibly have any mental health problems. The reality is that mental health can affect anyone – even people with good grades or popularity. This stigma can make it more difficult for those suffering from a mental health condition to get the treatment they need or open up to their friends or those around them.
Compassionate Mental Health Treatment at The Wave
Here at The Wave, we understand just how difficult and challenging it can be to seek treatment and come to terms with the fact that you have a mental health problem. We’ve worked with hundreds of young people and know the struggles and anxiety you may be facing at this moment. We are here to remind you that there’s nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Seeking treatment is a significant first step in the right direction and will speed up your recovery journey.
Whatever condition you’re struggling with, we’ll work with you to build up a personalised treatment plan that takes all your symptoms into account. Alongside psychotherapy and medication, we offer alternative treatments, including equine, sports, and musical therapy.
Get in touch with our care team today to find out more. They’ll be more than happy to walk you through the admissions process and answer any questions you might have.