Why It Matters: Mental Health in Adolescents

What is Mental Health?

Let's begin with the definition of mental health. Most people think that mental disorders or illness simply equate to mental health, but this is not the case. However, it is something more than that. According to World Health Organization (WHO), the state of well being (includes emotional, physical and social) in which every individual realizes his/her own potential to cope with the normal stress in our life and can work productively can properly define mental health.

Mental health is one of the most essential part of our lives, from childhood to adulthood. It will affect one's thinking capacity and actions in daily life. Recent studies suggest that more than 450 million people around the world are now affected by mental illness such as depression, anxiety disorders etc. Several factors such as genes, life experiences or family history are responsible for increase in such disorders.

What about Mental Health in Children?

People on all age groups can be affected by Mental disorders. Everyone has their own pressures/problems and when someone is not able to deal with the same, it will lead to mental illness. You may be wondering how this could affect young people or what problems they face. One of the major problems is the 'unrealistic' expectations about these people from family. If a child is not able to achieve everything that his/her parents want to, this can lead some to deep depressions.

The result of a survey conducted by WHO was breathtaking. About 20% of the children and adolescents in the world are affected by mental disorders. That means that 1 in 5 students are subjected to mental disorders.

WHO Report on Mental Health: http://www.who.int/mental_health/world-mental-health-day/2017/en/

What are the causes?

There are many reasons why the rate of mental health issues are increasing day by day. However, the exact reason for this is still not known. Some of them are listed below :

  • Genetics : Mental health issues in parents or in families can affect children (via genes). Genes contain the information about the functioning of all cells, which in turn determine, how we think, act etc. Several researchers suggests that it is not about a single Gene, instead the accumulation of several ones. Hence, it is not compulsory for a child to get affected if there is mental illness running in their family. However, there are chances to develop such problems due to this.

  • Biological Reasons: Other than hereditary reasons, the chemical imbalances in brain can also develop mental disorders. The chemical called Neurotransmitters are essential to transmit and receive electro-chemical signals within the brain and facilitate communication with all the other organ systems in the body. In order to maintain the proper level of Neurotransmitters, our brain need proper nutrients everyday. Failing to receive the same leads to disrupted communication between brain and body. Thus, it can have serious effects to ones health, both physically and mentally.

  • Psychological Trauma: It develops after a life threatening event. It can be loss of parents in childhood or sexual abuse in young age. Such incidents reduces the sense of security which makes you feel helpless in the world and finally leads to mental disorders.

  • Environmental Stress: Sudden change in the environmental conditions such as divorce among parents, changing school or native place etc can also affect children. Now-a-days, children are addicted to the internet world, where there are several dangerous things can happen. Bullying by friends on social media or threatening by strangers for physical abuse are some among them.

What type of disorders are commonly found in adolescents?

Common mental illness found in adolescents are as follows:

  1. Anxiety Disorders

  2. Mood Disorders

  3. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders

  4. Eating Disorders

How can we identify these disorders?

Differentiating the expected behavior and the symptoms of mental disorders is bit difficult, especially among adolescents. They can have different symptoms when compared with that of adults. Some adolescents only experience one or two symptoms while others experience more. Your child may need help if they :

  • have difficulty in eating or sleeping

  • poor academic performance

  • excessive worrying or fear

  • avoid friends and being alone

  • suicidal temptations

  • lose interest in everything they enjoyed

  • feel hopeless or rejected

  • unbearable pain

  • are addicted to alcohol or drugs

  • excessive mood swings

  • behave recklessly

Can these be cured?

There is no specific treatment that will work for everyone. This is because the causes and symptoms of this illness differ from people to people. Of course, many illnesses can be cured by giving proper attention to the above symptoms, but will differ for everyone. Due to the improvement in technologies, there are several kind of treatments available for those who are willing to seek help such as Psychotherapy, Medications for each type of disorders, etc.

Talking to loved ones can make them feel safe and attended. Make sure to spend some time with your loved ones everyday and ask them to be open with you, in case of any issues they may face. You may also seek the help of a medical institution if you feel that the symptoms lasts for several weeks or months.

Useful links to get help:

  • https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/NAMI-HelpLine

  • https://www.mentalhealth.gov/get-help

  • https://www.psychologytoday.com/tests

  • https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml