IMPORTANCE OF MENTAL WELL-BEING IN ADOLESCENTS AND YOUTH

Good mental health equips us with the ability to handle any situation with rational decisions. We often overlook mental well being in adolescents and youth. It is the general belief that individuals going through puberty are ill mannered with behavioural issues. Youth, too, is deemed prone to mood swings because of peer and societal pressure. Having said this, the behavior that we deem unfit is actually a very natural coping mechanism. Adolescents and youth face very rapid changes in every sphere of life. This is a period of great confusion and frustration for most. Developing personalities, identity crisis and finding a purpose in life is suddenly upon them after being completely carefree. With the growing population and competition, there is a race to be the best. Nothing less than perfection seems acceptable. This exerts undue pressure on youth to prove they are worthy. Hence it is also true that individuals in the age group of 10 to 35 years are the most susceptible to mental illnesses. Statistically, adolescents and youth below the age of 35 make up about 65% of India's population. In a huge country like India with a population of 1.3 billion, youth and children are almost 2/3rd of the population. This means more competition and stress. India has noted a rising level of mental illnesses with depression and anxiety in the lead. During the formative years from the age of 5 to 20, a person observes physical, psychological, cognitive, social and mental changes. Responsibilities and taking big decisions are suddenly upon them. Such rapid changes are very disorienting and some people may need help coping with these changes. How can one tell the difference between the phases of natural behavior and poor mental health? It is indeed difficult to differentiate between the two, but a very clear indication of poor mental health is the inability to function and complete daily tasks that were previously easy to complete. Small periods of unrest are completely normal and natural; it is only a problem if the issue persists over more than 2 weeks. Issues like low self esteem, depression and anxiety are also inhibitory but deemed normal even if there are prolonged episodes. When these last for more than two weeks it is advisable to book a consultation. Here are some points to keep in mind. It is a myth that mental illnesses can only manifest as an adult. They can develop as early as late childhood and early adolescence. When mental illnesses manifest this early, there's a huge possibility that this problem will last lifelong; unless diagnosed and treated correctly. It's not like one can't survive with mental illnesses, but it gets more difficult to go through life with one. When youth face these issues in the formative years, dealing with the illness becomes a habit which stays even when the illness is no longer inhibitory. Now even though mental illnesses sound daunting, they are just the same as physical illnesses with the majority of them being curable. If you have the slightest doubt that you or a loved one needs help, don't hesitate to seek help from a professional. Getting a professional opinion will help you put your mind at ease. Understanding the issue is a first giant step, dealing with things become a lot easier after. If you're a caregiver, it is important to listen to your ward and address their problems. Creating an environment conducive to sharing thoughts, opinions and discussions can be great for your adolescents' self esteem and decision-making ability. Since we are only human, we all face mental unrest in our lives. A very important thing to observe is that not all difficult periods in life are attributable to mental illnesses. Difficult periods are only a reason to observe the individual a little closely to avoid the onset of a mental illness. Being supportive of yourself and others can help to deal with the lows of life. Everyone has to face their own issues and an encouraging hand can help adolescents to function normally and develop more holistically.

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