Adolescence can be a turbulent and challenging time, with hormones and emotions running high. Mental health in teens is an important factor in helping them mature into healthy, functioning adults. By nurturing emotional wellbeing in adolescents, we can ensure that their mental health remains on track, and arm them with the right skills to manage their feelings. This article looks into the importance of mental health in adolescence, and offers strategies for promoting emotional wellbeing in teenagers.
1. Investigating the Impact of Adolescent Mental Health
Mental health and wellbeing during adolescence is a topic of increasing concern for parents, educators and health practitioners alike. This is because adolescent mental health impacts not just the individual, but also their supportive networks and wider communities.
Harms of Poor Mental Health
Poor mental health can lead to extensive risks and harms, some of which include:
- Higher likelihood of patterns of substance misuse
- Increased missed opportunities in educational settings
- A heightened chance of involvement in crime
- Risk of dropping out of the labour force
The identification and addressing of mental health issues during adolescence is becoming an increasingly important step in the prevention of further issues.
Identifying Mental Health Struggles
One of the difficult aspects of identifying mental health struggles in adolescents is the wide-ranging changes that are natural to their development, and can be mistaken for signs of more serious disorders.
For example, while puberty is associated with intense emotional reactions, these reactions may be more pronounced in a young person struggling with mental illness, and in any case, should be taken seriously.
Other possible signs of mental health issues include changes in behaviour, eating and sleeping habits, as well as statements about feeling overwhelmed or trapped. If any of these present in adolescents, further investigation is recommended.
2. Finding Balance for Teenage Emotional Wellbeing
It is essential to maintain emotional wellbeing as a teenager. It can be difficult, however, to find balance in life when so many different influences can tug in different directions. Here are some tips to foster emotional wellbeing for teenagers:
- Create Emotional Space: Taking a few moments each day to practice relaxation and meditation can help young people to break away from the world and connect with their inner feelings. This helps to build emotional resilience.
- Engage in Exercise: Exercise helps to keep the body and mind healthy by releasing feel-good hormones and reducing anxiety. Physical exertion is an ideal way to de-stress and boost energy levels.
- Maintain Healthy Habits: While life can get busy, it is important to eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and get enough rest. Developing healthy habits is key to managing energy levels and supporting emotional wellbeing.
It takes effort to find a balance between physical, mental, and emotional care. With practice, however, teenagers can nurture their emotional wellbeing and benefit for the rest of their lives.
Developing an understanding of their feelings can help teenagers to identify and understand how external influences may play a role in their emotional wellbeing. Having a support network of family and friends is also vital, as well as seeking guidance from professionals if necessary.
3. Exploring Ways to Promote Positive Mental Health in Adolescents
- Social Engagement
Adolescence is a key period for the development of healthy social skills, such as self-control and empathy, which can have a profound effect on mental health during later life. Encouraging strong and meaningful relationships with peers, family and teachers can help adolescents to cope with the range of challenges they face. Activities that facilitate positive social experiences can also be beneficial, such as regular after-school clubs where they can work on projects together, or outdoor activities like camping trips that promote bonding and problem-solving.
- Mindful Practices
Integrating meditation and relaxation techniques has been shown to reduce stress in adolescents. Training in mindfulness also helps to develop concentration, giving them the ability to stay focused in difficult situations and improve their ability to respond to emotions. Incorporating calm practices into the daily routine of teens (such as yoga, breathing exercises and mediation) is an important step towards creating a positive mental health framework that will help them to better manage their emotions and build resilience.
- Seeking Support
It is also important to encourage adolescents to seek professional support when needed. Surveys have found that one of the main reasons adolescents hesitate to seek help is due to stigma – it is therefore important to make sure they understand mental health services are an acceptable and effective way of dealing with any issues they may encounter. Showing examples of people or celebrities who have sought treatment for mental health issues can be particularly helpful in removing this stigma and normalising professional support.
4. Recognizing the Warning Signs of Mental Health Issues
Mental health issues can come one us without warning or indication. That’s why it’s important to learn to identify the warning signs. Early identification and diagnosis can help people get the treatment and support they need before things take a significant turn for the worse.
Changes in Mood and Behavior
Pay attention to changes in mood and behavior. People with mental health conditions occasionally swing between high and low moods, but look for changes that last longer than a few days and become more pronounced. Other behaviors to look for are:
- Unusual or heightened levels of stress or anxiety
- Social withdrawal from friends and activities
- Lack of interest in usual hobbies
- Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
- Outbursts of rage, anger, frustration
Changes in Thinking and Concentration
Watch for signs of disconnection, as if the person is in a bubble or walking on eggshells. Other signs that a person may be struggling with a mental health issue can be changes in thinking and concentration. If you notice any of the following behaviors, it’s important to reach out:
- Difficulty concentrating on work, school, or other tasks
- Confusion, poor decision-making, and procrastination
- Difficulty remembering appointments, conversations, tasks, or deadlines
- Increasingly poor academic, work, or social performance
- Heightened levels of paranoia or suspicion of others’ motives
It’s often difficult to be honest about mental health and talk about our feelings. If you know someone who shows signs of a mental health issue, encourage them to talk to a medical professional. Asking for help is the first step towards recovery.
5. Building the Foundations for Mental Health Resilience in Teens
Raising teens in today’s world can be a tough job. They’re exposed to an unprecedented level of stress and pressure, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are on the rise.
But to help them build resilience, there are five key steps parents can take:
- Build a supportive family environment. Families should aim to foster open communication and provide a safe, supportive space for their teens to express their feelings.
- Teach them about emotions. Help your teen understand what different emotions are and how to effectively handle and cope with them.
- Encourage physical health. Regular physical activity has been linked to better mental health, so suggest a sport or physical activity for them.
- Value mistakes. Mistakes are a normal part of life and should be viewed as an opportunity to learn and grow.
- Model healthy habits. Show that mental health is a priority for you too by practicing good self-care, such as getting regular sleep and finding healthy outlets for stress management.
By building a supportive family environment, teaching emotions, and valuing mistakes, parents can lay the foundation for their teen’s mental health resilience. With these key steps, parents can ensure their children are ready to take on the world with confidence and strength.
Mental health in adolescence is a complex topic and one that is of great importance for the wellbeing of the teenage population. Nevertheless, parents, educators, and other guardians of teens’ emotional development can make a difference in fostering healthy emotional growth. Everyone can play a part in helping teens develop resilience and nurturing their emotional wellbeing. In the end, it is all about providing teens with the tools and support they need to make it through a challenging period of growth —one of the most important investments that can be made in the future of our society.