Adolescents face an overwhelming number of challenges, including mental health disorders and substance use. Despite being at risk for these conditions, many youth struggle to find help.
While adolescence is a time of change, it’s also a period of resilience and social development. Getting young people the help they need is essential to their success and well-being.
Adolescence is a time of change
Adolescence is a time of change, characterized by physical and emotional transformations that affect the brain, body and emotions. These changes also prime adolescents to assume more complex social roles and develop interpersonal skills.
Emotional disorders (anxiety and depression) are the most common mental health issues for youth, with more than one-third of 10-year-olds and nearly one-half of 15-19 year olds experiencing some kind of mood disorder.
The adolescent brain is particularly vulnerable to mental health issues because it is still developing. This means that some areas of the brain are not fully mature, leading to lapses in judgment, increases in risk-taking behaviors and mood swings.
Adolescents experience a wide variety of challenges, including exposure to violence; harsh parenting; severe and socioeconomic problems; living conditions; discrimination or exclusion; lack of access to quality care and services; and mental illness. The impact of these factors on adolescent mental health can be profound.
Adolescents are resilient
Adolescence is a time of intense and unpredictable stress. It is a crucial time in the development of resilience, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).
Resilience is a term that refers to how people handle the ups and downs of life. It takes strength, time, and help from others to build resilience.
One way that teens can improve their ability to cope with stress is to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. They also need to believe that they can make a difference in the world around them, according to research.
Resilience has been linked to a number of positive characteristics in both children and adults, including extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness. However, there are also a number of negative associations, such as with neuroticism.
Adolescents are social
Adolescence is a time of change for adolescents as they become more autonomous from their parents and spend more time with peers. This adjustment reflects social development, which involves identity exploration and a commitment to values.
Many adolescents will experiment with several identities in order to find their true self. This exploration of various roles is part of the psychosocial stages of development identified by Erik Erikson.
During this time, adolescents learn how to empathize with others. They also learn to listen carefully to others’ concerns and interpret nonverbal cues.
Adolescents need a caring adult in their lives who will support them during this developmental stage. This support can help them explore new ideas, build relationships, and make good decisions.
Youth need a chance to contribute to family life, even if it means taking on chores. They need to be involved in family decision making–about spending choices at mealtime, rules around bedtime, and homework–and to feel their opinions are heard and respected.
Adolescents are vulnerable
Adolescents are susceptible to many mental health issues, including depression, suicide, and substance use. Their developing brains make them more vulnerable to sensation-seeking and risky behaviors than older children or adults, and they are also more likely to be influenced by peer pressure.
A number of factors influence adolescent development, including genetics, social and cultural norms, and gender. These factors can lead to adolescent health problems, such as poor school performance, school dropout, strained family relationships, involvement with the child welfare or juvenile justice systems, substance abuse, and risky sexual behavior.
Nurses have an important role in assessing adolescents for mental health issues. They must be educated on the needs of adolescents, identify signs of mental illness, and utilize every opportunity to assess adolescent mental health. They must also recognize that adolescents are often isolated from peers and may feel lonely, which can increase their risk for depression and suicide ideation. They should also know when to refer an adolescent for treatment.