Adolescence, a time of social development, is also when mental health problems such as anxiety and depression can emerge. This can be exacerbated by factors like pandemic isolation and exposure to traumatic events, whether natural disasters, racial injustice or international conflict.
Many teens struggle to find help. But psychologists are working to change this.
Suicide is a serious risk factor for youth mental health. Any teen who says they want to die, or shows any signs of wanting to kill themselves should be evaluated immediately by a trained professional. This includes any teen who has a plan to kill themselves, no matter how incomplete or dangerous that plan is.
Almost sixty percent of all youth deaths in Canada are suicides. This makes suicide one of the leading causes of death for people ages 10 to 19. The most common causes of suicide are mental illnesses, such as depression, bipolar disorder (manic depression), and schizophrenia. These conditions can also be accompanied by other disorders, such as eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and substance abuse.
Some warning signs to look for include changes in sleep or eating patterns, and a sudden loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable. It is important to not ignore these warning signs, and to reassure the person that they are loved and that their feelings can be treated.
Depression is the most common mental health condition for young people. It can affect a person’s thinking, emotions and physical health.
It’s important to talk about depression with someone you trust, such as a parent, school counsellor or friend. You can also call beyondblue or lifeline on 13 11 14.
Adolescence is a time when some problems, such as anxiety and depression, tend to emerge. This is partly because the brain is going through a major development period, and is more sensitive to mood changes than adults.
Teens with depression can be at risk of suicide. It’s important to make sure they get help, even if they don’t seem very depressed. It’s also important not to dismiss their feelings – this can come across as dismissive, and may make them feel they don’t have worth. They may need to take part in psychological therapy, or be prescribed antidepressants. They might also need to go into a psychiatric hospital or day program, which can include group and individual counselling.
Adolescence is a time when anxiety becomes more common. This increase in anxiety is often linked to the coronavirus pandemic, which robbed teenagers of many activities, made them feel disconnected from friends and increased their social pressure to perform.
Worrying about school, sports and social interactions is not uncommon but excessive anxiety can be a sign of a mental health disorder such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Trauma, including childhood trauma, loss of a loved one and collective trauma such as the COVID-19 pandemic, can also increase a teenager’s risk for developing an anxiety disorder.
In generalized anxiety disorder, teens worry excessively about a variety of everyday things that they cannot control, which can lead to physical symptoms such as muscle tension, trembling, stomachaches and headaches. This can also lead to depression and other mental health problems, which can have a lifelong impact. Treatment can help, especially if it starts early and is ongoing.
Whether you’re struggling with self-harm yourself or know someone who does, it’s really important to talk to somebody. Try to identify what’s triggering it. For example, is it anger, feeling pressure to be perfect, relationship trouble or a past trauma? People who self-harm often do so in an attempt to relieve emotional tension.
Trying to understand what’s causing your self-harm can help you find other ways of dealing with tough emotions. Many young people who have self-harmed say that once the problems that were triggering their behaviour had been dealt with, they didn’t need to harm themselves anymore.
If you’re worried that someone you know is struggling with self-harm, ask them to talk to their GP. They may offer counselling, which can be low cost or free. Alternatively, call Beyond Blue to talk to a counsellor at any time (Tel. 1300 22 4636). They also have helpful information on their website. Self-harm is very serious, and it’s not something that should be ignored or taken lightly.