Mental health statistics estimated that one in five adults in the U.S. lives with mental illness. Mental illness is categorized into a broad category, ranging from mild to severe, any mental illness (AMI) and serious mental illness (SMI). AMI encompasses all recognized mental illnesses, SMI is a small yet severe subset of AMI. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, AMI and SMI are defined as follow:
- Any mental illness (AMI) is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder. AMI can vary in impact, ranging from no impairment to mild, moderate, and even severe impairment.
- Serious mental illness (SMI) is defined as a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
How prevalent is mental illness among adolescents?
The United States population is 329,367,409, adolescents (ages 10-19) represent 13%(almost 42 million) of this population. Females represent 49% of the 42 million and 51% of men. Now let’s look at the prevalence of …mental illness in this group.
Mental health disorders in adolescence include those related to anxiety, depression, attention deficit-hyperactivity, and eating.
Anxiety is the reaction to situations perceived as stressful or dangerous. It’s an emotion that causes increased alertness, fear, unwanted thoughts, and physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, and stomach upset. Anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias. According to the World Health Organization, anxiety is the eighth leading cause of illness.
Anxiety occurs in approximately 32 percent of 13- to 18-year-olds.
Depression is a serious mood disorder that causes persistent sadness, helpless, hopefulness and worthlessness. It affects how you feel, the way you behave and think. Depression disorders include depressive disorder, postpartum depression, and seasonal affective disorder. According to the World Health Organization, depression is the ninth leading cause of illness and disability among all adolescents.
Depression occurs in approximately 13 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds.
Attention deficit- hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is characterized by a persistent inability to focus on activities/tasks, uncontrol impulsiveness, and hyperactivity.
ADHD occurs in approximately 9% of 13- to 18 -years olds.
Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder is characterized by disturbed eating habits, either insufficient or extreme eating.
These disorders occur in 3% of 13-to 18-years olds.
Mental health determinants
Adolescence is a crucial period of transition between childhood and adulthood. It is when they are developing and maintaining emotional habits important for their well being. Multiple factors determine the mental health of adolescence. The more risk factor they are exposed to, the greater the impact on their mental health. From the statistics above, mental illness is very prevalent in adolescents. Factors that contribute to their mental health other than the normal stress of being in school and pressure to conform to peers are a sexual violation, discrimination, living conditions, stigma, lack of access to quality support and services. Chronic illness, socio-economic problems, negligence, lack of love from parents or no bonding are other factors that contribute to adolescents’ mental health.
According to a report on PBS, in 2017 alone, there were 47% more suicides among people aged 15-to 19 than in the year 2000. It’s paramount that we prioritize mental illness just as we would prioritize any other illness, one suicide is way too many to ignore. In 2017, suicide is ranked as the second-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24, more than 6,200 suicides.
Warning signs of suicide in adolescents include:
- Expressing hopelessness for the future.
- Threatening to kill oneself.
- Starting to use a drug or alcohol as an aid to sleep.
- Preparing for death, giving away properties, writing goodbye letters.
- Talking as no one cares.
- Seeking out weapons, pills.
Signs of depression in adolescents
- Withdrawal from friends.
- Stays awake all night and sleep during the day
- Use of alcohol or drugs.
- A sudden drop in grades.
- Sadness, anxiety, irritability.
- Rebellious behavior.
- Difficulty making decisions.
- Rapid weight loss or gain.
- Irresponsible behaviors.
- Memory loss.
- Preoccupation with death.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Complain of physical pain such as stomach aches, headaches, fatigue.
How can parents alleviate teen depression?
- Allow your teen to make mistakes.
- Give your teen a breathing room, don’t expect he/she to do exactly as you said.
- Replace shame and punishment with positive reinforcement for good behavior when disciplining your teen. Shame can make your teen feel worthless.
- Avoid trying to relive your youth through your teen’s activities and experiences.
- Keep the lines of communication open.
- Try avoiding to tell your teen what to do.
- Focus on listening and not lecturing, resist passing judgment once your teen starts to talk.
- Make face-time a priority, this means no distraction whatsoever.
- Encourage him to go out with friends or invite friends over.
- Suggest activities he once enjoyed, such as sports, fishing, art, music, after-school activities.
- Make sure your teen is getting the nutrients he needs for optimum brain health and mood support, things like healthy fat, high protein and avoid sugar consumption.
- Know when to seek professional help.
- Always seek your teen input when seeking treatments.
- Explore your options, what treatments are available for your teen, which ones meet his needs.
Side note: I am not a mental health professional. This information is to provide you with basic knowledge about mental health. Mental illness affects everyone differently, so pay close attention to your teen and notice changes in him and seek for professional help.
Have you ever cared for a teen dealing with mental illness? How was your experience? What worked and what did not?
What would you like to learn more about? Comment below and I will get to work?