5 ways how mental health concerns among teenagers and young adults can be managed

While academic excellence has been one of the biggest mental stressors for young adults, the online learning with total lack of physical interaction, is only making it worse.

Teen depression and mental health has been a global issue, with parents, teachers, and healthcare providers, struggling to cope with the rising number of troubled teens and young adults. The increasing mental health concerns, arising out of the economic uncertainty, gloom, and social isolation, forced upon us by the pandemic, has only made it worse. Since March 2020, it is reported that more than 600 million students globally have been forced to study from home. Constantly sitting in front of a screen for a whole day, learning complex subjects like math and science, without any face-to-face interaction, access to laboratory experiments and even constraints in meeting and interacting with friends and peer groups, has added to a lot of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, that eventually starts reflecting in falling grades. Not just with grades, the ordeal impacts optimism and enthusiasm/energy levels of the students, directly influencing their mental health. While academic excellence has been one of the biggest mental stressors for young adults, the online learning with total lack of physical interaction, is only making it worse.

As per a report by the WHO, one in 4 teenagers in India suffer from depression. Today, suicide happens to be the number one cause of death among teens and young adults aged between 15-29 years, contributing to over 15 suicide deaths per hour, in the country. While there has been a rising awareness about this in the past few years, with schools and colleges offering counselling and therapy sessions, meditation camps and support groups etc., the lockdown and the social isolation brought about by COVID have severely hampered the attempts, while also intensifying the problem.

While a lot is spoken about handling adversity in a positive manner, one needs to understand that the same principles may not be adequate for young adults, who are still in their formative years and seek support understanding and guidance. Sameer Bhide (47) survivor of an extremely rare catastrophic haemorrhagic stroke in his cerebellum provides an in-depth understanding of coping with adversity and negative state of mind. Listed here are 5 keys pointers which can help parents, teachers, and guardians to identify, and support young adults and children with mental health issues.

1. Identify, acknowledge and accept: One of the key aspects of treating any problem, is to first identify the root cause, acknowledge and accept the situation and realize that there is a problem that needs fixing. As parents and adults, struggling to cope with our own problems, one often tends to brush aside, disregard, or be in denial of a child’s mental health condition. But mental issues are real. Acknowledging and accepting the problem, is the first step towards solving it. Observe and list symptoms, read up or speak to their friends, to understand what is ailing them. Discussing this with other parents/ counsellors may also help to ascertain the cause and the exact mental health issue plaguing the child.

2. Provide unconditional Support: Having identified and accepted the problem, it is important to have an honest discussion about the same with the child, in a safe, non-judgmental, and supportive environment. Lack of frank communication is often a major cause of isolation for children when they are unable to express their negative emotions or consider themselves as failures in the eyes of their parents. Often a loving, supportive, and non-judgmental dialogue can help tremendously in restoring mental and emotional wellness. No doubt, this discussion is a difficult thing to do, but it must be done.

3. Spend more time: Acceptance and support, when combined with physical presence and effort, can be reassuring and go a long way in helping children cope and manage their struggles better. From doing a common activity together, like going out for walks, reading, or playing a game etc., to doing household chores and sharing responsibility, can help build trust and offer positive reinforcement of the support available to children.

4. Help set goals and targets: One of the biggest motivators could be a target or a goal soon, to look out for. As teens, they have their entire life ahead of them, filled with immense possibilities. But they need to be helped with seeing the bigger picture and counselled on how the things that seem monumental right now may not be of any consequence, 5 years down the line. And the only thing that they can work towards in the current situation, is to work towards building a successful life for the future. Setting short term goals and helping them achieve those, reinforces self-confidence, and builds hope, ultimately helping them come out of the dark phase.

5. Seek medical help: Lastly, in addition to the above, it is always important and vital to seek a professional opinion and advice, and if need be, seek medical intervention as well. While most cases of teen mental health can be solved through counselling and therapy, some cases might require pharmacological intervention, with medicines and short- or long-term treatment plans. And it is vitally important that parents identify and approach medical professionals for this intervention, at the right time. There should not be any shame whatsoever in seeking this help

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