Why is Age Specific Treatment Needed for Adolescents and Emerging Adults?



Young people are suffering, and being let down by health systems across the world.


According to the World Health Organisation, worldwide, 10-20% of children and adolescents experience mental disorders. Half of all mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and three-quarters by mid-20s but most cases are undetected and untreated. Emerging adults fare no better. For instance, in any given year, over 40% of U.S. 18 to 29-year-olds meets criteria for psychiatric disorder. This is a higher rate than for any other adult age group. The most common disorders are anxiety (22.3%), substance use (22.0%), and mood disorders (22.0%).

Young people face so many challenges as they navigate the difficult road to adulthood. Many suffer in silence, while their parents despair. Worldwide, depression is the third leading cause of illness and disability among adolescents, and suicide is the third leading cause of death in older adolescents (15–19 years). In Australia, suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians and accounts for the deaths of more young people than car accidents. BS Causes of Death, Australia, 2012 (2014)

When young people are given treatment, it is often when in serious crisis and in adult settings. The Wave was established to provide care to young people around the world, in an environment where they will feel safe and familiar.

Why is it important to treat young people in an age-specific setting?


The most important aspect of any caring environment is the ability to feel safe within it and to feel a part of the community: to be understood, accepted and secure. Mental illness creates isolation – the feeling that one is different in a bad and perhaps selfish way. In isolation, we close ourselves off from others and reject help and the world becomes distant and frightening. Approximately 1 in 10 (9.3%) of young people meet criteria for social phobia, during a stage in their lives where they are expected to make new friends, start work, go to college and perhaps get married. When our young clients spend time with one another, they begin to feel that they are not alone anymore and begin to open up and embrace new ways of thinking about life. This is because, with us, they feel that they are among peers. We can only deal with past traumas in an environment where we feel safe

At The Wave, we also understand that young people face particular challenges and grow and heal in different ways from older groups. For instance, adolescents are more susceptible to peer influence, are less able to focus on the long-term consequences of their behaviour and choices and are more highly focused on immediate concerns. We embrace a philosophy of meeting the client where they are at, within an environment that feels inclusive, comforting and familiar, and then supporting them to become active, take small, manageable steps to recovery and, eventually, to blossom.

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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