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Mental Health Problems of Teenagers: How to Prevent Them

Mental Health Problems of Teenagers: How to Prevent Them

Mental health is about a person's emotional and behavioural well-being and how people feel and/or act. This is much like physical health and has much to do with each person's conditions and environment. Mental health can affect people's relationships, routines, and actions in their life. Bad mental health can hinder one's day-to-day life. Mental health can also be genetic and can depend on the composition of certain hormones or the lack of hormones in one's brain.

A wide misconception about mental illness is that it is only caused by external factors. This is not always the truth, as many times depression and other mental illnesses are passed down from generation to generation.

The most common mental health problems teenagers are facing

The sudden pandemic in the world has caused a lot of unrest in the mental health of many children. A common misconception about children regarding mental illnesses and health is that they cannot have it. As stated before, mental illnesses can be genetic. On top of this, with the impact of social media, social life, and school pressure, many adults think that stress, mental illnesses or mental health problems come with age and cannot be seen in young people.

Some teenagers may undermine their feelings when they know something is wrong because of what parents or adults say around them.

For example, a common phrase that parents, guardians and adults around a struggling child should be aware of is “This phase will pass in your life”. It implies that the mental pain that the child is going through is just “a phase”. This undermines the child’s emotions and confuses them. This could inhibit them from reaching out for help if needed later in life because of the stigma caused by adults around them.

How can you deal with them?

If you’re dealing with mental health problems, there are different things you can do to help it.

You can talk about your feelings with someone you are comfortable with. Talking about what you feel isn’t a sign of weakness. It is part of taking charge of your well-being and doing what you can to stay healthy. Being listened to by someone about your feelings can help you feel supported and less alone, and it might help others do the same. It's not always easy to describe what you're feeling. If you can’t think of one particular word, use different words to describe that feeling. Ask yourself, “What does it feel like inside my mind? What does it make me feel like doing?”

Eating well helps you look after your mental health. There are strong connections between what we eat and how we feel. Your brain needs a mix of nutrients to stay healthy and function well, just like any other organ in your body. A diet that’s good for your physical health is good for your mental health. A healthy balanced diet includes:

  • lots of different types of fruit and vegetables
  • wholegrain cereals or bread
  • nuts and seeds
  • dairy products
  • oily fish
  • plenty of water 

Taking a small break from everything can sometimes be more than enough to destress you. A change of scene or pace is good for your mental health. The breaks could be from a five-minute pause from homework to a full day break on the weekend to explore something new. Taking a break may mean being active and doing something or doing nothing at all. Listen to your body; when you’re exhausted, give yourself time to sleep and don’t overwork yourself. Without a suitable break or good sleep, our mental health suffers and our concentration decreases.

The taboo

Mental health awareness has been taken more seriously throughout the years. More and more people are open with their feelings of depression, anxiety, PTSD and other mental illnesses. Before, mental illnesses were not considered important to take notice of.

During the late 15th and early 16th century, as more people admitted to having a mental illness, doctors diagnosed them with a supernatural possession as they were considered “abnormal”. As a cure for "possession', people with mental illnesses were exorcised. Many people who showed signs of mental illnesses were treated extremely cruelly. This is because any abnormal behaviour by an individual was considered a supernatural phenomenon.

During the 18th century, people with mental health issues were placed in asylums, to house them. It was slowly getting known that people with mental health issues had psychological disorders and needed help to face them. But however, as these issues came to light, many people still were mistreated and had terrible housing in asylums. Dorothea Dix (1802 – 1887) researched mental health and the people affected by it. She was an American advocate on behalf of the indigent mentally ill who, through a vigorous and sustained program of lobbying state legislatures and the United States Congress, created the first generation of American mental asylums. However, despite these efforts, the asylums were poorly maintained, and the patients were not always treated fairly.

Now, mental health is very well known and may have information on types of mental health and how to help them feel better. 

There are many community centres for mental health around the world, and they are treated kindly and respectfully like any other person.

Effects of exam stress on students' mental health

With 29% of the 201 teen suicides in 2014 taking place whilst waiting for exam results, or the exams themselves, the focus is now on creating a positive place to air issues and concerns. It has become increasingly worrying that the contents of the new exams have burdened students with an abundance of unnecessary stress. It may have a detrimental effect on their mental health, both now and in the future.

Exams have always been stressful, and in every generation, there is always a part of the population who has not coped very well with the stress, but it does feel like a bigger problem. They want more for their kids, and there's more pressure from the media, government, society, etc. There is more pressure from schools as they are ‘judged’ on their performance. It results in more pressure from parents as they feel life is not as ‘easy’ to get a job as it was for them.

The exam years of secondary school can be the most challenging years of people’s lives. It does not help with stress and anxiety when students can’t even look at exam papers.

Recent curriculum changes, including the grade boundaries changing, and the entire exam content are entirely rearranged. Many students struggle with the whole premise of not being able to study old exam papers and example texts. This adds yet another stress level to students as they feel completely unprepared for exams, creating an even bigger impact on them. Can society address this before the situation gets out of hand?

Students talk:

What is mental health according to you?

“Essentially, I believe being happy in your head is what good mental health is all about. Mental health is the importance of your own well-being and keeping a good balance in your life. So, in my opinion, mental health is having a rational balance between psychological and emotional welfare.”

Can you prevent mental health problems?

“No, you cannot prevent mental health problems. But what you can do is attempt to resolve them through a psychiatrist or otherwise”.

“By having a balanced lifestyle, I think you can. Spending time with positive people is critical and being with people who value and appreciate you are very important, even if it’s a small group.”

 “Yes, by staying healthy physically, mentally and socially.”

Why do you think mental health awareness is important?

Mental health is essential nowadays with an increasing workload for everyone and a rapidly advancing technological world. We have to deal with a lot more on our plates. Hence, mental health is beneficial to society.

What causes mental health problems?

“Negative interactions on social media and offline life And people judging each other are some of the causes.”

“Mental health problems are caused by isolation and not being understood by those around you. Stress is also a huge factor.”

“I think there are one or two primary causes of these issues. The first would be stress overload or any form of work overload because it no longer allows for retaining balance. A secondary issue could also be a more emotional overload than a more logical one.”

Have you ever been in a situation where you have struggled with your mental health?

“I think everybody has, yes. Hope is a big thing... Getting up in the morning and knowing there’s the hope of something good coming can create a beneficial impact on your mindset.

For myself and most people in school, the pandemic impacted my mental health due to our isolation and stress.”

How can we raise awareness about mental health?

I think that a very good use of social media in the promotion of mental health awareness is already being conducted, but we could also use other resources.

“By discussing it more and ensuring no one feels ridiculed about their mental health. Using platforms like social media and promoting sources that educate people about mental health can also be impactful.”

“I think focusing on mental health as a way of communicating with people to go for the things that make them happy and try not to focus on mental health as a problem is a way of raising awareness. Having a positive lifestyle and not stressing about the negatives is the way to go!”

What is a Girl Up?

Girl Up is a movement founded by the UN Foundation in 2010, committed to changing adolescent girls' lives in developing countries. We educate, advocate and raise funds for

Gender Equality. We tackle multiple issues, including but not limited to education, reproductive

health, menstrual equity, social and economic issues, LGBTQ+ rights, etc.

The mission of Girl Up CISB is to educate and empower girls within our community to promote the understanding of the social injustice and gender inequality girls experience all throughout the world.

We aim to raise awareness amongst fellow constituents in our Bangalore community about the outlying problems, to hold fundraisers for organizations to impact girls' lives around the country, and to advocate for a better way of living for girls at a local level.

At Canadian International School, our group of respected and educated individuals will aspire to make a difference every step of the way.

Ridhi and Saana
The CIS Girl Up Student Club