"What mental health needs is more sunlight, more candour, more unashamed conversation."- Glenn Close
Adolescence and youth form a peculiar period of time in everyone's lives. Biological, emotional and mental changes occur in individuals during this time. But, this is also a volatile span of years, where people learn how to respond to those changes and realities of life. People in their adolescence develop inter-personal skills, problem solving and coping abilities, reactions to emotional variations, which all combine the state of their mental health.
So, mental health means how people think, feel and act when they face various situations in life. All aspects of our life and our physical well-being are influenced by it and thus, there is a need to ensure that people are mentally healthy in every stage of their life.
One in six people is of the 10-19 years age group. According to WHO, half of all the mental health conditions start by 14 years of age, but most cases go undetected and uncured. India has the highest rate of suicide in the world and shockingly every 3 seconds someone of the age group 15-29 years attempts to commit suicide.
This is an alarming issue that needs to be looked at because if we do not address the mental health conditions of adolescents, the consequences may extend up to limiting opportunities of people to live happily, disturbances in relationships and even permanent mental disorders. The more risk factors they face during young ages, the more disturbed they become as adults. People often comment, youngsters these days have all the opportunities in life and yet they are not coming up to the expectations. Why are the youth still unhappy and drained in their lives?
The first element of mental health is family and relationships for every human being. Domestic violence, ignorance, harsh behaviour and bullying by parents and siblings, failed marriage of parents, extra-marital affairs of parents and even continuous judgmental attitude of relatives can adversely affect the minds of children. In some families, the parents and relatives set expectations regarding grades of kids and the kids are grilled to achieve the same. Child behavioral disorders occur due to lack of attention given to children. When such children grow up, they become rebels, destructive or hyper-active and even anti-social.
The second element is that of attention-seeking behaviour of adolescents among their peer groups. A good example can be of eating disorders which occur in teen females. Most of them develop harmful eating habits like binge eating or cutting down calories. They remain conscious about shape, body weight and acceptance among the peer groups and they have great fear of weight-gain. Eating disorders affects physical health and are usually linked with distress or depression.
Harmful use of substances like drugs and alcohol is also a major concern in most of the countries. It is normal for teenagers to experiment with different objects and activities. Unfortunately, this can lead to substance abuse. According to UN World Drug Report, 2018, 5-6% of teenagers in every country (sample taken was 130 countries) used cannabis. The stress and confusion caused due to drug abuse ultimately lead to violence and crimes.
The third element is the intervention of society in the lives of adolescents. Society shapes the character of every person. But, the popular ideas about adolescents in the society are wrong. Society perceives them as trouble-makers, lazy reckless and threatening gangs of people. This is the worst way to approach such a delicate phase of life. The pressure on teenagers to achieve top grades, get "white-collar jobs", to settle down in the early ages etc is so high. Society is ignorant about the emotional stress meted out against adolescents.
The way out
The mental health of adolescents should be viewed as the highest objective rather than their grades or jobs. The solution is within the hands of parents/guardians and society.
Government should implement parenting education programmes. Parents should be taught how to monitor their children, how to deal with behavioural issues, and how to be more understanding. Excessive punishments should not be given to children. Parents should realise that adolescence is a disturbed stage and they should give more care, attention and support to their children.
Schools should include anger management, inter-personal skills and meditation in their curriculum. Teachers should realise that they are the guardians of kids, when the latter attend schools. Schools should also monitor the behaviour of teaching and non-teaching staff towards students.
Government should launch initiatives to improve and address mental disorders of adolescents. And, the society; we form the society. Let us bring a change to the way how we judge teenagers. Let us stop setting expectations and let us nurture care and love. Let us listen to what they have to say and let us try to be more understanding than judgmental.
And a final tip to the adolescents: Stop worrying about the expectations that you face in life. It is okay to feel down and depressed, it is okay to get low grades once in a while, and it is okay to be disturbed and irritated. What matters is how you overcome these issues as an individual and live your life to the fullest without falling prey to social evils like substance abuses, alcoholism or vandalism. You are the future and let us make it bright!