DETERIORATION OF MENTAL HEALTH IN ADOLESCENTS

Adolescence is considered as the first leg into adulthood and we are floundering just finding our feet. Each one of us handles our adolescence differently as individuals. There is no right or wrong way to go through this phase since everyone is unique. Although some teenagers do find it difficult to cope with this age, there’s no shame in asking for help. It is very important to remember that every individual is different and comparison is gratuitous. Each one of us has our own set of strengths and weaknesses and comparing ones weaknesses with another’s strengths is very unfair.

Teenagers face myriad problems in adolescence. These problems give rise to mental disorders.Let’s look at the main reasons for deteriorating mental health in adolescents.

Existential crises: This is the time when teenagers are not children anymore but not adults either. They have to face the responsibilities of an adult and plan for their future. Suddenly taking such big decisions make teenagers question their purpose.

Personality development: Through the ages of 10 to 18, major changes take place in the body. We reach a state of physical, emotional and intellectual maturity. Rapid changes do not give adolescents time to cope. The inability to cope with these changes can induce depression and anxiety. Most teens feel misunderstood and unheard by adults.

Body shaming: Growing up, the body undergoes a quite number of changes before completely maturing. Comparing maturing bodies with perfect prototypes leads to low self esteem and even self loathing. Some teenagers are the victims of bullying for their bodies too. Raging hormones also cause skin problems like acne and pimples which is very uncomfortable and victimization is not uncommon.

Social Media and Technology: One has access to the internet very single minute of the day now. This causes undue stress as one is expected to be knowledgeable and keep up with latest trends. Social media is the most stressful. Lives on social media are just a portrayal of our actual lives, it’s not reality. However teenagers in their confusion compare their normal lives with the perfect lives of others on the internet and fall victim to mental disorders like depression and low self esteem

Peer pressure: Adolescents are the most gullible section of society, because their personalities are still malleable. They are very confused and disoriented with the changes going on in and around them. The pressure to fit-in increases as being popular becomes paramount. Bad company and choices, unstable mental health can push a teen into substance abuse, sexually deviant behavior and violence.  With the increasing population, competition in turn increases and life is even more stressful. In their frenzied and undeveloped state of mind adolescents may perceive themselves as mediocre and disappointing

Societal pressure: Since the competition is so tough, being unique and standing out from the crowd is all the more difficult. Relatives and family members often compare their teen’s growth with others, and it is generally lopsided. Adolescents are already under a lot of pressure and the additional pressure from society to stand out and be successful is crushing in the formative years. Seeking help for mental health is a taboo in most societies even today.

Genetic factors: If there is a history of mental illnesses in the family, there’s a high chance of contracting the illness. Mental diseases are biological and hence hereditary. Extra precaution needs to be taken if any such history is known.

Not enough help: When adolescents go through a rough time, it is important that they have role models, or mentors to look up to and confide in. Mental illnesses are best diagnosed in the developmental stagesand everyone does not have access to mental health professionals. Communicating the nature of the problem can solve half the problem.

Erratic behavior of adolescents isn’t looked upon very kindly by most adults and the adolescent feels even more isolated.  At such a time it is very important for the adolescent to have a mentor to calm them down and listen to them. If they have someone to voice their fears to, understand them with compassion and empathy, life becomes easier and possibly minimizes the risk of mental disorders altogether. Every individual feels the need to be treated as a person and be heard. An absence of this could severely compromise emotional, identity and personality development.

 According to the World Health Organization, half the mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 and can continue lifelong if untreated; severely compromising mental and physical growth. Depression and anxiety are the leading mental illnesses diagnosed in adolescents. Foul mood, lack of interest in anything, poor concentration, social isolation, anger outbursts and irregular sleep cycles are the major indicators of these illnesses.These growing years are extremely confusing and disorienting. The individual may not even be aware of their behavior and the idea of seeking help may not occur.

As a teenager, one needs to understand that asking for help is not weakness nor is there any shame in this. Spreading awareness about their future as teenagers among children aged 9-12 will well equip them to handle the growing years and will reduce peer pressure. Children will grow up to be kind, empathetic adults. In a time where mental disorders are increasing, one needs to be equipped not only to help self but others too.

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