Adolescence is a key time for individuals to develop healthy habits like regular sleep, exercise, and positive social interactions. These practices act as protective factors against mental health conditions and make it even more important that we focus on mental health early on! (World Health Organization, 2019) https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health
Teens may be vulnerable to mental health issues, but their brains are flexible and resilient, allowing most teens to go on to become healthy adults despite mental health challenges
Mindfulness—or the act of refocusing the brain on the present moment—can be a helpful tool to combat anxiety and depression.
A full and restful night’s sleep is essential to mental health. Teens need more sleep than adults and children. It may be inconvenient, but teen’s natural rhythms make them alert late at night and sleepy in the morning. Still–9-10 hours are recommended when possible.
Most teens do not get enough sleep, which can increase difficulty focusing, irritability, and depression.
The brain continues to mature through adolescence and into a person’s mid-20s. The pre-frontal cortex, which controls planning, prioritizing, and controlling impulses, is one of the last areas of the brain to fully develop. This means that teens are more prone to risky behavior.
For black and latinx teens, the racial trauma from being stereotyped and discriminated against can contribute to feelings of isolation and poor mental health.
Minority youth face discriminatory laws and policies that can heighten mental health issues and limit their civil and human rights.
The combination of racial or ethnic minority status with sexual-orientation, gender, ability, and socioeconomic status, and documentation status can create unique mental health challenges for teens.
Feeling positive and proud of one’s racial identity acts as a protective factor when teens confront racism and discrimination. Positive feelings of one’s racial identity also increase self-esteem, which promotes mental health.
What Teens Think of Mental Health
Teens and young people often feel afraid to reach out to mental health professionals, especially to disclose suicidal thoughts. (Hart, Mason, Kelly, 2016)
Many teens have stigmatizing views of mental illness, and attribute symptoms to personal weakness instead of mental health challenges. Such beliefs prevents teens from seeking help. This is damaging and shows we need to teach teens about mental health in new ways! (Hart, Mason, Kelly, 2016)
A teen’s decision to seek professional help is largely based on the attitudes and support of their peers. (Hart, Mason, Kelly, 2016)
Many teens experiencing mental illness prefer to get help from their peers over adults. That means it is important teens are equipped and educated to offer support when their friends reach out. (Hart, Mason, Kelly, 2016)
Teens may be deeply affected by local, national, or international tragedies. When an event threatens our own safety or the safety of others it can be considered a trauma event.
Experiencing trauma can interrupt a person’s daily functioning and cause high levels of physical, emotional, and psychological distress. Expressions of such stress can look different in teens than in children or adults.
Teens may hide their feelings after a traumatic event for many reasons, including wanting to be perceived as strong, not wanting to worry their parents, or needing more time alone to process the event.
If you or a friend has experienced a traumatic event, such as death of a loved one, witnessing violence, or a natural disaster, take notice of any of the following symptoms and seek help:
Feelings of sadness, anger, anxiety, or guilt
Overreacting to minor irritations
Ruminating on the traumatic event and talking about it often
Disturbed sleep patterns
Withdrawing from family and friends, wanting to spend more time alone
Becoming extra protective of loved ones
Acting younger by ignoring responsibilities or becoming rebellious
Increased need for independence
Self-absorption and caring only about what is immediately important
Loss of interest in school, friends, hobbies, and life in general
Pessimistic outlook on life, being cynical and distrusting of others
Depression and feelings of hopelessness
Difficulties with short-term memory, concentration and problem solving.