About Youth Mental Health
Given the rapid biological, psychological and social changes that occur during the teenage years, adolescence represents a period of elevated risk for mental health (Reference: Mind Matters).
One in four young people have experienced a mental health issue in the past 12 months – a higher prevalence than all other age groups. Alarmingly, suicide is the leading cause of death of young people, accounting for one third of all deaths.
Research shows that 75 per cent of mental health issues emerge before the age of 25. By treating these issues early and providing a holistic model of support, the risk of them developing into more serious problems is greatly decreased (Reference: headspace).
Enhancing the social skills, problem-solving skills and self confidence of young people can help prevent mental health problems such as conduct disorders, anxiety, depression and eating disorders as well as other risk behaviors including those that relate to sexual behavior, substance abuse, and violent behaviour (Reference: World Health Organisation).
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What is Mental Health?
Mental health is about being able to work and study to your full potential, cope with day-to-day life stresses, be involved in your community, and live your life in a free and satisfying way. A young person who has good mental health has good emotional and social wellbeing and the capacity to cope with change and challenges.
Feeling down, tense, angry, anxious or moody are all normal emotions for young people, but when these feelings persist for long periods of time, or if they begin to interfere with their daily life, they may be part of a mental health problem. Mental health problems can affect their feelings, thoughts and actions, and can affect their ability to function in their everyday activities, whether at school, at work, or in relationships.
If you feel you know a young person whose mental health is getting in the way of their daily life, it is important to let them know you are there to support them.
Signs that suggest a young person might be experiencing a mental health problem.
These are new, noticeable and persistent changes in the young person, lasting at least a few weeks, including:
- Not enjoying, or not wanting to be involved in things that they would normally enjoy
- Changes in appetite or sleeping patterns
- Being easily irritated or angry for no reason
- Finding that their performance at school, TAFE, university or work is not as good as it should be or as it once was
- Involving themselves in risky behaviour that they would usually avoid, like taking drugs or drinking too much alcohol
- Issues with their concentration
- Seeming unusually stressed, worried, down or crying for no reason
- Expressing negative, distressing, bizarre or unusual thoughts
headspace tips for talking to a young person
It”s important that young people feel comfortable and supported to talk about their mental health. Here are some things you can do to encourage this:
- Talk openly and honestly, let them know what you are concerned about and ask what they need from you. They might not know what they need so be prepared to make suggestions – and have them dismissed
- Encourage them to talk and listen, be patient and hear their fears and concerns
- Do things with them. Sometimes they might say more if you”re driving somewhere or doing something together
- If they are distressed, don”t tell them to ‘just calm down’ or ‘get over it” – they need to be taken seriously
- Avoid judgment and reassure them that you will be there for them
- Let them know if they don”t want to talk to you, they could talk to other trusted adults, and there”s help available
- Support them in seeking information, looking for help and/or talking to a health professional, at eheadspace or a headspace centre
- Encourage a regular routine (i.e. getting up in the morning, eating three meals a day) try to ensure they are not regularly up late or sleeping in very late the next day
- Involve them in decisions and give them responsibility at home (i.e. deciding what to eat for dinner and help prepare it)
- Ask them how they are and acknowledge any achievements and efforts they make
- Support them to keep in contact with peers
Encourage them to get involved in activities or projects and join in when you can.
Tips for a healthy headspace - for family and friends
Just like physical fitness, mental fitness takes regular effort. There are lots of things that family and friends can do to support a young person to look after their mental health.
One of the most effective ways to support young people to look after their mental health is to model healthy habits yourself, so it’s a good idea for you to practice some of these tips as well.
- Get enough sleep
- Eat Well
- Stay active
- Keep learning
- Make time to relax
- Cut back on alcohol and other drugs
- Seek help
For more information, visit headspace – Tips for a healthy headspace