Today, March 2nd, is World Teen Mental Wellness Day, a day observed across the globe that aims to raise awareness about the mental health issues that teenagers deal with. The day is about education, making sure everyone understands what this day means, and finding ways to deal with something that is becoming increasingly common.
Nowadays, in the world we live in, mental health struggles are unfortunately consistent in teens. It is said that mental health issues start from around the age of 14 years, and most go undiagnosed and untreated, palmed off as ‘moody teenager syndrome’. Mental health issues can lead to struggles, including substance abuse, plus suicide and depression are just some of the leading causes of death among teens.
We are all maybe guilty of often failing to understand what teenagers go through, and the stigma associated with mental illness can make teens reluctant to ask for help, so we must reach out and let them know it’s okay to talk. Even for those without any mental health struggles, mental wellness is an essential aspect of health. It refers to overall emotional well-being, the ability to live a full life, the flexibility to deal with life’s changes and the connectivity we must keep with our family and friends.
Good mental health is important for healthy teenage development, confidence, and resilience, and strong and loving relationships can have a direct and positive influence on teenage mental health. As a parent, family member or friend, there are many things we can do to help our teenagers if they are experiencing issues and ensure their mental health stays positive.
It’s always hard to watch someone you know suffer with their mental health. We need to be there for them, support them and talk to them. But if your teenager is suffering from depression, they need space.
Depression can make people very confused, and they don’t always know how to deal with their feelings and will prefer alone time while their thoughts consume their head. Communication is not on their agenda. If this is the case with your teenager, don’t take offence, take a step back. You can message them, text them, leave them a voicemail, send them a letter. Letting them know you are there will 100% help, but you must wait until they are ready to talk and share their feelings. You may not understand what they are going through, so all you can do is empathise, be patient, let them know you’re there for them, and give them the space they need to deal with their issues.
World Teen Mental Wellness Day makes a commitment to help prevent mental health problems for our children. We are constantly faced with life issues that can link to our mental health state, and one way of dealing with these issues in the hope that they don’t happen again is to reflect.
Self-reflection is taking the time to examine ourselves, evaluate and give serious thought to our behaviours, attitudes, and motivations. It’s diving deep into our thoughts and emotions, which will allow us to move on, to do better and to learn from the experience we’ve had. Reflecting will help us gain perspective, respond more effectively, to learn and understand. When we fail to reflect on these areas of our lives, we can lose perspective, get caught up in things that don’t matter, don’t look forward, and often lose sight of the most important things.
By being there for our teenagers, we can help them reflect on their experiences, help them overcome the factors that initially affected their mental health, and help them develop positivity moving forward. In addition, by seeking a greater understanding of how our teenagers are faring mentally, we can raise awareness of the issues they are facing and help them overcome their fears and face their issues.
It’s normal for teenagers sometimes to have low moods, poor motivation and trouble sleeping, it comes with age and hormones. Of course, these things aren’t always the signs of a mental health problem, but you need to look out for a selection of signs if they continue over a longer period of time.
Mental health warning signs might include:
• a drop in school performance
• ongoing worries or fears
• aches and pains that don’t go
• loss of appetite
• problems fitting in at school or getting along with other children
• aggressive or disobedient behaviour and repeated temper tantrums
• sleep problems
• being tearful or lacking motivation
• having trouble coping with everyday activities
• being aggressive and getting into trouble
• being antisocial
• being very anxious about weight or physical appearance
• losing weight or failing to gain weight
If you spot any of these ongoing signs with your teenager, you need to talk to them and need to understand their situation. What is making them this way? What are they dealing with? Put yourselves in their shoes, listen to them, don’t let them deal with it alone.
Telling someone with depression to cheer up is not advice, it’s a lack of understanding. It doesn’t work like that. Giving advice to people suffering from a mental illness can be difficult, you must ensure it comes across as caring and not judgemental. First and foremost, remind them that they must talk and share their problems and feelings. To give themselves time. Mental health is not something you recover from, it’s a process, let them know it’s okay not to rush. Surround themselves with good people, people like you who are there for them, who they can confide in and who has their back.
Set some goals. What is it they want to achieve? Maybe work-related may be exercise-related, maybe travel. Help them journal their ideas and write out a plan which will give them a purpose. Tell them to stay away from alcohol and drugs, they are not their friends, they will only aggravate the problems. Start a hobby, create a skincare routine, get out and walk. Self-love is definitely on the agenda for making your body and mind feel better. Take some time out. Switch off, grab a book, make a cuppa, watch Netflix and put zero pressure on yourself. Just quiet your mind.
If your teenager knows you are there for them, they are guaranteed to come to you for advice every time those negative feelings creep up. Simply keeping communication open and keeping it honest is key, the rest will follow.
There are many sources available to help teenagers and young adults with mental health issues, the first step being to contact their doctor, who will help them work out how best to deal with their issues. There are also mental health councillor's, online sources that can help, such as YoungMinds and Stem4, and peer groups, which can be powerful and supportive.
World Teen Mental Wellness Day shines a spotlight on mental health issues that affect millions of young people. Depression, anxiety, bipolar, ADHD, OCD, and others, can be frightening, but that does not mean your teenager can’t live their best life.
Our teens must know that while social media might portray a different story, it’s okay not to be okay. So open the conversation today and raise awareness. Collectively, we can help our teens all over the world.