Young people and mental health
One in five people experience mental illness at some point in their lives, however the numbers of young people experiencing serious mental illness have been found to increase (Mission Australia Youth Mental Health Report 2016). Compared to any other age group, Australian youth experience the highest prevalence of mental illness (Black Dog Institute).
One in four young people are at risk of serious mental illness; mental illness risk increases as adolescents age, becoming most prevalent in the older teen years; and the risk is greater in Indigenous groups and young women. (Mission Australia Youth Mental Health Report 2016).
Imagine for a moment, feeling;
Confused, anxious, deep sadness that feels like it’ll never end, scared of all the “what if’s”, continuous uncertainty, no self-esteem, no confidence, no self-worth, overwhelmed by all the feelings while having feelings of numbness at the same time, indecisive, withdrawn, isolated, questioning what’s my purpose, don’t know where to start, frustrated, darkness, heavily drenched in negative thoughts, vulnerable, constant worry, hopelessness, rejection, stress, constant fatigue, insomnia, fear of failure in life, school, work, struggling with body image, disappointment in self, tears, emptiness, craving for a sense of belonging, continuously seeking validation but finding it in the wrong places, struggling to communicate what you need because you actually don’t know yourself.
It’s a vicious cycle of not knowing what to address first because so much needs to be done at once before you can see the life you’re supposed to be living at the end of the tunnel.
All these feelings lead to:
- Physical health problems
- Unhealthy sleep hygiene
- Anger management issues
- Breakdown of relationships with family and friends
- Employment and study problems
- Financial issues
- Social isolation
- Risk taking
- Substance use and/or abuse
- Self-harm, suicidal ideation and/or attempts
It doesn’t need to be this way
This is unfortunately the space that many young people experiencing mental illness can find themselves in. Though living with a mental illness doesn’t have to mean a life as described above.
In reaching out for support, developing coping strategies and working alongside supports to improve your health and wellbeing, this can help improve your life.
Working on recovery and wellbeing;
- Developing coping skills and utilising self-care – focusing on the five senses and which of them work for you when self-soothing, this could be various sensory items such as particular scents, music, exercise, painting or even taking your shoes off and walking on the grass.
- Mindfulness – Mindfulness is connecting with the present moment. This can be done through various activities such as reading, journaling, walking, meditating or having a cup of tea.
- Getting support and keeping connected – Having regular contact with your mental health supports and GP is important, however so is being connected with your local community through groups, social clubs and community houses. This can offer the opportunity to connect with others and reduce social isolation.
I felt uncomfortable doing self-care because it focused on just me and that felt selfish, but I realised how much it actually helped my mental health.
– Samantha 21 years
If you are feeling like something is not right, feeling down or having thoughts of self-harm, talk to family and friends, or visit your GP, make a plan and remember that drugs and alcohol will not fix the problem, but likely to make things worse.
What can others do for young people?
So what are some ways you support a young person struggling with their mental health?
- Listen to the words they are saying and how they are feeling without judgment
- Listen without preparing a reply – it’s ok to say you need a moment to think about what they’ve said before responding.
- Acknowledge and validate what they are feeling – it’s about how they are feeling and not about what they say makes you feel.
- Don’t offer solutions, instead offer support – ask how can I support you with this?