Tackling Mental Health Problems in Young People: A Guide
The mental health epidemic is something that has been hitting headlines every day in recent years. While awareness is growing for many mental illnesses, it also highlights how more and more young people could be affected by severe mental health problems.
While many struggle to address this issue, tackling mental health at an early age could equip young people with the skills they need to deal with some of these illnesses later in life. From encouraging openness to doing your bit to give back, there are many ways adults can help the younger generation to cope
Understanding the source
Young people today lead very different lives to the young people of yesteryear. Though blessed with more career choices and better human rights, there is a whole host of fresh issues that they are struggling with. This has contributed to a rise in mental health problems in young people, especially in young girls.
There is still much research to be done on what causes mental health problems, or worsens predisposed conditions. However, with a quarter of young people being concerned that being on social media is harming their mental health, the spotlight has been shone on what can be done to minimise its effects. For example, many girls will feel a pressure to look a certain way, even as pre-teens. This kind of pressure could be linked to eating disorders then or later in life.
It is not just social media that has an impact. Challenging home lives, lots of pressure to succeed in school, and bullying have all contributed to feelings of anxiety and depression in children in the past. While it is difficult to pinpoint just one issue, the first step to helping children out of these dark places is to understand where they could be coming from - without any judgement.
Recognising the signs
With young people, it is sometimes impossible to determine whether they are acting out due to mental health problems or hormonal changes. Regardless of which it is, these are challenging times to deal with. Though talking to children can help here, they may not be as willing to open up as you are. When this happens, it’s important to recognise signs that something could be wrong.
These signs include:
Grumpiness of irritability
Losing interest in their favourite activities
Being tired a lot, and excess sleeping
Persistent sadness or low mood
Loss of focus
Concerning eating habits, like over or under eating
Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
While some of these issues may be more easily recognisable than others, young people could be less forthcoming about the specific emotions they are feeling. For this reason, it is vital to keep an open line of communication, so that they know they can come to you if they are feeling low. This is the case whether you are a parent, teacher, or concerned loved one.
Facilitating a supportive environment
Making sure young people know that you are there to talk is a huge step in addressing the issues they may be facing. It’s true that more can be done to ensure young people feel supported, both at home and at school. It starts with showing your child love and affection as much as you can. Many children do not have loving environments to go home to, so teachers may wish to create this kind of environment in the classroom.
It is this acceptance that is key. Kids are smart, and they know when your actions don’t back up your words. As adults in their lives, you will already have a huge amount of responsibility, but even the smallest actions can help. For example, asking children about how they are and their day shows them how much you care, while encouraging them to pursue their dreams shows how much faith you have in them. Most of all, you should never criticise a child on how they look.
Kids learn from the behaviour of adults around them. If, as a parent, you are also dealing with mental health issues, you may feel as though you can’t be a good role model. This mindset could not be further from your truth. As long as you are taking care of yourself, encouraging open dialogue, and seeking support from a mental health practitioner, your kids will grow up using your actions as an example to follow.
This is a great start to offering practical solutions to young people on what they can do to help themselves when they begin to feel low. It may even help to put on workshops about how they can deal with negative emotions if you are a teacher. This is beneficial for children who aren’t suffering, and those who are, as it teaches everyone to look out for those around them. There will be times when children with more severe mental health problems will need your support, and you’ll need to be equipped to deal with this. Becoming a special needs teacher enables this support to take place.
Ending the stigma
Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health is still rife. When a child feels as though what they are going through is wrong, they will be less likely to open up to people about it. There is some headway happening in government to end this stigma, alongside various social media campaigns showcasing support for mental health sufferers of all ages.
Many people would agree that this stigma needs to be tackled through education, as teachers warn that mental health is at crisis point among pupils. Whether in schools or through helpful television programmes, this kind of education needs to be genuine and accessible if it is going to help. Thankfully, there have been proposals to teach about mental illness from an early age, with this kind of education being made compulsory in schools within the next few years.
Aside from in schools, there is much that can be done to end this stigma at home; it is much easier to do than you think, and refraining from using derogatory language about mental health conditions is vital.