Mental Health: A Growing Threat to Our Young People

Infographic on the Impacts of Poor Mental Health on Teenagers
Mental health issues are rife among young people, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. It is important for young people to know how to stave off mental illness, as it can drastically impact their studies and relationships.

Mental health is a growing threat to our young people. Mental health issues can range from mild to severe, and can include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and suicide.

Mental health problems are often triggered by stressful life events such as bullying, exam stress, relationship problems or the death of a loved one.

Mental health issues in teens

Mental health issues in teens are becoming more and more common, with one in four young people experiencing a mental health problem each year. Mental health problems can have a significant impact on a young person’s life, affecting their education, employment prospects and personal relationships.

Some common mental health issues in teenagers include:

Depression

Feeling sad or low most of the time, loss of interest in hobbies and activities, feeling hopeless and helpless, irritability, anger or frustration.

Anxiety

Feeling scared, nervous or tense all the time, feeling like you’re in danger even when there is no real threat, feeling on edge or like you can’t relax.

Eating disorders

Unhealthy attitudes and behaviours towards food and body image, extreme dieting or binge eating followed by purging (vomiting), using laxatives or diuretics to lose weight, obsessively counting calories.

Low self-esteem

Feeling not good enough or like you don’t measure up, feeling inferior to others, avoiding social situations or activities you enjoy.

Low sense of identity

Not sure who you are or what you stand for, feeling lost or like you don’t belong.

Peer pressure

Feeling like you have to conform to what your friends or peers are doing, even if you don’t want to.

Body dysmorphia

Obsessively thinking about and criticising your appearance, feeling like you’re never good enough or that you don’t look “normal”.

Self-harm

Deliberately harming yourself as a way of dealing with difficult emotions. This can include cutting, burning, scratching or hitting yourself.

Suicide

Feeling so overwhelmed by negative emotions that you see no other way out than to end your life.

If you are worried about a young person in your life, it is important to talk to them about how they are feeling and encourage them to seek help from a GP or mental health professional. There are also many support organisations which can provide help and advice, such as Headspace, Beyond Blue and Lifeline.

Reasons Why Mental Health Issues Develop In Teens

Mental health issues can develop for a variety of reasons. Often, it is a combination of genetic, biological, psychological and environmental factors that play a role.

  1. Biological factors: Mental health problems can run in families, so if someone in your family has a mental illness, you may be more likely to develop one yourself. Mental health issues can also be caused by changes in brain chemistry or hormones.
  2. Psychological factors: Difficult life events such as bullying, the death of a loved one or relationship problems can trigger mental health problems. If you have low self-esteem or poor coping skills, you may also be more likely to develop a mental illness.
  3. Environmental factors: Stressful living conditions, such as poverty or violence, can increase your risk of developing a mental illness. If you have experienced trauma, such as abuse or neglect, this can also lead to mental health problems.

Impact of Mental Health Issues for Teens

Mental health problems can have a significant impact on every aspect of a young person’s life.

  1. Education: Mental health problems can affect concentration, memory and motivation, making it difficult to succeed at school or college. Mental illness can also lead to absenteeism, as well as suspension or expulsion from educational institutions.
  2. Employment: Mental health issues can make it difficult to find or keep a job. Mental illness may also lead to poor performance at work, as well as absenteeism.
  3. Relationships: Mental health problems can make it hard to maintain healthy personal relationships. Mental illness may cause arguments and conflict, as well as social isolation and loneliness.
  4. Physical health: Mental health issues can lead to physical health problems, such as sleep disorders, gastrointestinal problems and headaches. Mental illness may also make it difficult to manage chronic physical health conditions.
  5. Finances: Mental health problems can lead to financial difficulties, as well as debt and poverty. Mental illness may make it hard to work or study, which can impact on a person’s ability to earn an income.

Building Mental Strength

There are many things you can do to build mental strength and resilience, even if you’re feeling down. Some helpful coping strategies include:

  1. Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling: Talking openly about your feelings can help you to feel better and may prevent your mental health from getting worse.
  2. Find healthy ways to cope with stress: Stress can trigger or worsen mental health problems, so it’s important to find healthy ways to manage stress. Exercise, relaxation techniques and time management skills can all help to reduce stress levels.
  3. Challenge negative thinking: If you’re struggling with negative thoughts, try to challenge them. Are they really true? Are they helpful? What evidence do you have to support them?
  4. Focus on the positive: Make an effort to focus on the good things in your life, however small they may be. This can help to boost your mood and give you a more positive outlook.
  5. Build social connections: Social support is vital for mental health, so spend time with family and friends, join a club or volunteer group, or reach out to someone you trust if you’re feeling lonely.
  6. Be accepting of yourself: Accepting yourself for who you are is an important part of Mental Health. When we are able to accept ourselves, we are more likely to feel good about ourselves.

If you are worried about your mental health or the mental health of a young person in your life, it is important to seek professional help. Mental health problems can be effectively treated with medication, counselling and other therapies. For more information and support, please visit:

  1. Headspace: https://headspace.org.au/
  2. Beyond Blue: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/
  3. Lifeline: https://www.lifeline.org.au/
  4. Kids Helpline: https://kidshelpline.com.au/
  5. Mental Health First Aid: https://mhfa.com.au/

First Aid for Mental Health

Mental health first aid is the help provided to a person who is developing a mental health problem, or who is in a mental health crisis. The aim of mental health first aid is to prevent the development of a more serious problem, and to promote recovery.

Mental health first aid strategies are designed to preserve life, prevent further harm and promote recovery. First aid for mental health problems can be delivered by someone with no formal training, as long as they are aware of the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health and know how to provide support.

If you are concerned about someone’s mental health, the best thing to do is to talk to them about how they are feeling. This can be a difficult conversation to have, but it is important to remember that you are not trying to diagnose the person or tell them what to do. You are simply expressing your concern and offering support.

If the person is in immediate danger, or poses a risk to themselves or others, call 000 for emergency services. You also can use traditional first aid strategies such as remaining calm, and protecting the person from further harm. To learn more about First aid strategies that can be useful in a mental health crisis, check out our First Aid courses available from Australia Wide First Aid.

Mental health is a growing threat to our young people. Low self esteem and mental health problems can be effectively treated with medication, counselling and other therapies. If you are worried about someone’s mental health, the best thing to do is talk to them about how they are feeling. You can also call 000 for emergency services if the person is in immediate danger. To learn more about First aid strategies that can be useful in a mental health crisis, check out our First Aid courses available from Australia Wide First Aid.

Additional Resources

For more information on how to develop mental fitness in young people, head to our Resource Library. You will also find tips and tricks for building mental fitness in children, and for rebuilding mental fitness after the COVID-19 pandemic.

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