Mental health problems on the rise among Adolescents – an overview

Adolescence, also called teenage years falls in the age group of 11 – 18 years. It is a time of growth and several physical, emotional and social changes can make teens vulnerable to mental health problems. Emotional world of teenagers are filled with insecurity. There are growth demands and conflicts which are difficult to resolve. It’s exciting, yet challenging for them to search for an “individual identity”, which is at par with the society.

Mental health problems are fast increasing among this group, across all cultures and socio-economic background. Promoting psychological well being for them is in utmost need these days, as it is adversely impacting the society and is a potential threat for our future generations.

Key Facts

1. 1 in 5 youth suffer from a mental illness, aged 10 to 19 years.
2. Mental illness account for 16% of the global health issues effecting youth.
3. Globally, depression is the leading problem, followed by suicide and self harm.
4. Anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, conduct disorder are neither uncommon nor less.
5. Drug abuse and alcoholism are common problems bothering youth today.
6. The consequence of not addressing these issues on time can limit opportunities for growth in youth, thus can be a constraint for a fulfilling adult life.

Warning signs to look for

1. Irrational and excessive worrying.
2. Fear.
3. Poor self confidence.
4. Extreme mood swings.
5. Remaining unhappy in most times.
6. Lack of proper sleep.
7. Improper eating.
8. Too much screen time and social media dependency.
9. Lack of social interaction.
10. Increased arguments with parents and elders, rebellious behavior, defying laws and rules.
11. They might skip school or drop out from college, get into regular fights with peers and siblings.
12. Experimenting with drug and alcohol.
13. High risk behavior such as reckless driving, visiting pubs, binge drinking and even unsafe sex.

Common mental health problems amongst adolescents

• Anxiety disorders – marked by fear, excessive and irrational worrying disrupting normal day to day functioning. Common ones are social anxiety disorder, common and specific phobia.
• Mood disorders – it involves disturbance in usual mood states. Common ones are major depression, bipolar disorder or suicidal ideation.
• Psychosis – disturbance in thinking, perception and behavior. Common problems are schizophrenia and delusional disorder.
• Substance abuse – disorders of craving for specific addictive substances. Alcoholism and smoking are usual ones.
• Behavior disorders – persistent disturbance in expected behavior patterns, as conform to societal norms as in conduct disorder.
• Eating disorders – improper food habits effecting health, such as binge eating, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa.

Causes for disturbed mental health

1. Having issues that negatively influence self esteem, such as poor academic performance, peer pressure, obesity, long term bullying from peers or relatives.
2. Conflict with parents and disturbed home environment, lack of parental care and support in times of need.
3. Being a victim of violence such as physical abuse or sexual abuse which made a scar forever.
4. Genetic factors do play a role in occurrence of certain mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
5. Have experienced stressful life events such as divorce, or death of a parent, economic crisis, inability to achieve good grades etc.
6. Too much exposure to social media and being a victim of media bullying and cyber crime.

How to overcome adolescent mental health problems

1. Encourage positive family and peer relations.
2. Parental support, love, care and understanding are essential.
3. Encourage family time, where children can share their feelings with parents and siblings. This ensures strong support base to handle issues in a better way.
4. Adolescents should do some stress busting activities such as outdoor games, painting, playing musical instruments for better mental health.
5. Screen time should be restricted as it reduces social interaction and brings in feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Thus, the bottom line is, adolescent problems are common and should not become a cause of concern, until it starts interfering with their academic, social and interpersonal interactions. Solutions to teenage problems should aim at behavior modification and personal counseling. The motto is to nurture “sound minds” and “peaceful souls” for the sake of humanity. Sleeping difficulty counselling through the PinkyMind app.