Current Issues

Teenagers and mental health

Depressed girl standing and looking out of a window
Photo: dashu83 – Freepik

World Mental Health Day is celebrated every year on 10 October 2020, with the goal of creating mental health awareness, particularly among the youth. All of us can make our contributions to ensure that young people struggling with mental health problems can live happily with dignity.

Today, teenagers and adolescents are experiencing many physical, emotional, cultural and social shocks. They live in a polluted environment. They are passing through a crucial stage of development with regard to their psychological, social and emotional well-being. These have a profound effect on their mental health.

The suddenness and the rapid pace with which these changes take place generate a number of problems and special needs, which they find difficult to understand on their own. Most of them become intensely concerned about their physical appearance and are highly self-conscious; anything that makes them different from others upsets them. They need proper care and attention from parents, teachers and their peers.

Teenage is a transitional period in which many changes occur in their bodies, thinking process and their social life. There is also a silent cry in the teenagers for an ‘independent identity’ to grow as unique individuals. It is a time of exploration, exuberance and youthful search characterized by a number of cognitive, emotional, physical and social changes. These very ‘changes’ become a real problem for them and to their parents and in a larger context they become their real challenges, as well.

A lot can be done to help build mental resilience from an early age to help prevent mental distress and illness among teenagers and young adults. Prevention begins with becoming aware of and understanding the early warning signs and symptoms of mental illness.

It is a time when conflict with parents is especially high. Conflicts between parents and adolescents/teenagers are more likely when they experience depressed moods and other problems like substance abuse, dating, etc. In youngsters in their early 20’s, we find the highest prevalence of a variety of risky behaviours. Substance abuse, rash driving, contracting sexually transmitted diseases are some of the examples. Stress and depression are also serious problems for adolescents. Stress is characterized by feelings of tension, frustration, worry, sadness and withdrawal symptoms that commonly last for a few hours to few days.

Traditional culture and its values are being substituted by drugs, pornography, tobacco use, excessive internet use, easy money, pleasure-loving and easy going culture. The advancement of science and technology is being made use of for adverse purposes. Thus, adolescents are under constant pressure from stress, tension and depression.

It is in this milieu that parents, teachers, elders and counsellors have a great role to play in helping them to pass through this stage of “storm and stress” in an unstrained manner and to equip them with sound knowledge and skills to live a happy and meaningful life.

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Counsellor at St Joseph’s College, Jakhama >> More articles

C. Joseph is a counsellor at St Joseph’s College, Jakhama in Nagaland. He has authored books, written a number of articles and has produced several music albums in English and Tamil.

C. Joseph

C. Joseph is a counsellor at St Joseph’s College, Jakhama in Nagaland. He has authored books, written a number of articles and has produced several music albums in English and Tamil.