Today is World Mental Health Day, an opportunity for organizations and individuals around the globe to bring awareness to mental health and surrounding challenges.
Each year, the World Federation For Mental Health (WFMH) selects a theme that facilitates discussion around a growing mental health epidemic or challenge. This year’s theme is “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.”
As youth worldwide find themselves increasingly exposed to new methods of communication, unreal expectations from social networks, and unhealthy societal pressures as they approach full adulthood, it’s important we examine the problems new generations face.
Below are a few mental health challenges youth are facing around the globe, and how we all can help.
Mental Illness Begins Young
According to WHO, half of all mental illness begins by the age of fourteen. Recognizing the age at which mental illness begins is an important first step, but currently, mental illness often goes undiagnosed or untreated in this age range.
Youth are also susceptible to an increased suicide risk. Among 15-29-year-olds, it’s the second leading cause of death. Bullying or harassment online is increasingly common, with 15% of high school students reporting they were bullied electronically in 2017. Bullying leads to feelings of exclusion and rejection, which in turn lead to depression and anxiety. It’s this path that puts youth at greater risk for suicidal behavior.
An inability to cope with pressures from high academic expectations, entry into the workforce and its related stresses, and unstable political climates can all lead to situational substance abuse by youth. Thankfully, substance abuse overall has decreased in high school students.
Increased use of social media among younger generations leads to negative self and body image issues. These issues manifest themselves in depression and eating disorders. Instances of eating disorders among youth are double that of adults.
While psychotherapy and/or medication are effective solutions for working through mental illness, it’s important we also promote healthy coping behaviors in younger generations.
Teaching Youth How to Cope with Tough Issues
Teaching young people how to combat stress, and effectively manage symptoms of mental illness, leads them toward healthier, more productive lives. This has wide-ranging benefits for our societies, such as creating a happier workforce and more community-oriented individuals.
Concepts such as self-care and other coping strategies are often practiced by adults, who have resources and support networks to seek help outside of traditional medical solutions. It’s important we pass these practices onto younger generations through open discussion and by sharing resources that will help them manage their stress and health.
Common examples of effective self-treatment are regular exercise, meditation and mindfulness practice, taking mental health days, and journaling. Tools like these mitigate the effects of stress and illness, and should be practiced in conjunction with therapeutic and medical solutions, if necessary.
Prevention Starts at a Societal Level
As global and local societies, we should do our best to stay in front of mental health risks. Depression and anxiety disorders are reaching epidemic proportions, and the effects these diagnoses have on adults trickle down to younger generations.
The earlier youth are exposed to healthy conversation around mental health, and provided with outlets to manage their own, the better they’ll be able to cope with issues going forward. Knowing where to seek help, and how to manage symptoms and stresses after diagnosis is critical to personal growth and recovery.
This means more resources and stigma-fighting conversations in schools. Workplaces should be prepared to help a younger workforce manage inevitable stresses. Governments should continue to provide funding to critical mental health advocacy programs and affordable health-care solutions.
When it comes to therapeutic options, we should teach younger generations how to select a therapist who is right for their needs, how to communicate their issues effectively, and to ensure they’re not alone in their desire to seek therapy.
World Mental Health Day Is Every Day at Talkspace
Treat every day as if it’s World Mental Health Day. While we’ve done incredible work to break down stigma around mental health as a society, there’s still much work to be done.
We should stand together each and every day to support those who are working through mental health challenges. Be there for someone if they’re struggling. Have a frank conversation with a younger person about what they’re feeling, and how you can help them. If you’re concerned someone is a suicidal risk, approach that person with strength but compassion.
Often, a simple conversation with someone you care about can save their life. Let’s continue to have those conversations together every day.