Mental health awareness shouldn’t be dedicated to a specific month; it’s something that needs to be prioritized on a daily basis. That being said, the light being shined on the matter is beneficial. Mental health disorders are a serious issue. Depression and anxiety are an anchor to those who are drowning and it suppresses their ability to speak up about it or vocalize their troubles. There are mute signs that people will show subconsciously that our society simply isn’t aware of. Our youth is struggling the worst and more than ever, according to recent studies done by the National Alliance of Mental Illness, 1 in 6 U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14 and 75% by age 24. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10-341. Many are struggling and find it difficult to define a pathway to have a better tomorrow. It is totally understandable for young people to have this feeling of disenchantment or being “lost” because we learn over time that we have to speak up for what we believe and the variable of time is what molds us. Young people just want to fit it when they are in their early teens.
Covid-19 removed social engagement as far as face-to-face contact for nearly a year, staggering our social growth for our youth. Cases of depression and anxiety increased by nearly 20%. The rippling damage has been far more significant on people than the virus itself. We still don’t have a clear scope on what’s going to happen as a result of the shutdown. Things beginning to normalize will hopefully cause the curvature to trend downwards, but there are many factors in modern society that play a role in the issues of mental health. Teen addiction to social connection through their phones is so artificial and becoming a toxic falsehood. It has created this environment of constant comparison. If a young person scrolls through their phone and sees what appears like everyone is happy and thriving, if they don’t feel the same, it can become crippling for them. Usually behind all of these posts on social media is a thin shell over their insecurities, warring surrounding issues, and a way to trigger dopamine. The accessibility of drugs for these adolescents has become a click of a button and those who are troubled are going to fall for that trap because they want to dilute their boredom in school, shouting insecurities and troubled familial homes. Social media has normalized drug and nicotine use and made it seem like the cool thing to do and has added a subconscious pressure to fit in and use. 1 in 5 students are around drugs and alcohol on a weekly basis and 15% of those teens end up using and developing a habit. These numbers are rising at a staggering rate. The goal isn’t to prevent kids from being kids, but there is a difference between a kid having fun and experimenting once in a while and a kid sneaking in a substance on a daily basis. There are so many moving parts and teens are developing these habits at a quicker rate annually, meaning they are getting their hands on these addictions at a younger and younger age. Circling back to technology and the addiction to the phone isn’t a shock, right? Right from the get-go, children are getting their hands on an iPad or an iPhone, tv, laptop, playing games, and learning through a screen.
With so many complex moving parts orbiting young people regarding influence in the realm of mental health troubles, it’s very important we educate ourselves on what to look for. Some signs of depression, suicidal thoughts, and anxiety are the following:
Mental health conditions
Substance use problems
Personality traits of aggression, mood changes, and poor relationships
Serious physical health conditions including pain
Being a burden to others
Childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma
Loss of interest in favorite activities
Increase in energy
Feeling or seeming on edge
Change in appetite
Expression of guilt
Unexplained physical symptoms
An emerging dark side
Difficulties sleeping and restlessness
Irritability and tension
Sweating and hot flashes
Chest pains and shortness of breath
Feeling of terror
How to manage this once these signs are noticed is another challenge within itself. The value of genuine parent connection, a life coach, a therapist, or a specialist for this matter is priceless. Having someone to look up to, someone to admire and to learn from for navigating life is priceless. It is vital that we all partake in the shaping of one another and especially our youth as they are our future! They don’t see this life as the rich possibility of potential it is. Especially in their teenage years when they become cynical because there is so much difficulty in the present for them to process and understand; making it very difficult for them to adjust to independently. I think about this on a daily basis, what to ask and how to plan for their future.
Questions I ask young people and recommend for others to utilize are the following:
If you could use your time out of school or out of work productively and meaningfully, how would you use it?
If you could have the friends you want, what would they be like?
If you could have the career you want once you complete your education, what would that be?
How should you deal with yourself mentally and physically?
How do you deal with temptations? That’s in relation to things such as drugs and alcohol, pornography, video games, or tv.
How do you educate yourself for the current study and things you’re personally interested in.
What does your future look like when you implement taking care of yourself in these terms and detail that vision.
On the flipside of the coin, it’s important to write out a counter-vision of a particular “hell” that they should avoid.
Our education system doesn’t embed time into teaching young people how to meditate on character development. This cripples them as they grow older by slowing their ability to know themselves and to learn to identify what’s best for them and what will hold them back. I caution parents and adults, in general, to be hyper-aware of our youth and educate themselves on how to approach the issues of mental health. Know when to challenge them and also be able to show empathy in times they are wounded. It’s okay to reach out for help, as a parent, as a young person, as a reader of this blog. There is a hero and a solution out there for everyone, don’t wait for when it’s too late.