Updated: Dec 12, 2018
Today’s teens and young adults are at the epicentre of a mental health crisis. Rates of depression and anxiety have soared by a stunning 70% over the last 25 years. This is shocking for a world in which we’re supposed to be winning the war against disease.
Life expectancies are lengthening, we’ve eradicated hundreds of the illnesses which killed our ancestors, and we can do things which technology which even our parents would once not have believed possible. Yet we’re not happy. In fact, we’re suffering more, mentally, than we ever have in the past. And young people are bearing the brunt of our modern mental health crisis.
The rate of people under the age of 25 presenting at A&E with psychiatric conditions has more than doubled in under a decade. In 2016, a Parent Zone survey revealed that 93% of teachers reported a marked increase in pupil mental health issues, with 90% of respondents stating that they believed the issues they were seeing were getting more severe. The number of concerned loved ones trying to find a counsellor for young people has shot up in a very short space of time.
All in all, it’s an incredibly worrying phenomenon.
So, what’s going on?
Mental health is a complicated thing. Every condition is very personal to the patient’s own circumstances. So, it would be wrong to point the finger at any one ‘cause’ for this mental health epidemic. However, there are a few things which may be exacerbating underlying mental health conditions, or contributing to an unhealthy mental environment.
Some of the reasons given for the uptick in youth mental health issues are:
• Social media
The huge rise in mental health problems coincides – more or less exactly – with the rise of social media. So, it’s very easy to connect the two. However, the connection between social media and mental health issues is a bit more complicated than it might seem. It’s true that ‘selfie culture’ can lead to feelings of insecurity, perfectionism, and anxiety. It can also add to the pressures on young people. As well as school pressures, puberty, and all the other things which make youth a tough time, young people now feel that they have to be constantly presenting themselves a certain way on social media.
Not to mention the fact that smartphones and social media are increasingly cutting into our vital ‘mental downtime’. Young people have far less space in which to just let their minds wander. The ubiquitous smartphones mean that they’re always ‘on’, always socialising, rarely resting their minds. And that’s bad for mental health. Sometimes, we ned to be bored!
Then there’s the cyberbullying thing. Contrary to popular belief, rates of bullying haven’t actually risen over the last decade. However, our hyperconnected world does give bullies more avenues through which to pursue their victims.
Having said that, it would be wrong to point the finger of blame squarely at social media. Social media can be harmless, if used responsibly. Social media does not create mental health problems, but it can tease out underlying insecurities, and amplify issues which may already have been present. It’s these underlying issues which need to be addressed. Simply deleting Snapchat won’t solve the problem.
• Global uncertainty.
We’re living in Interesting Times, and that’s making a lot of young people anxious. Whereas previous generations usually knew (or thought they knew!) how their futures were going to pan out, modern young people have no idea what the world’s going to be like in a decade, let alone by the time they’re ready to settle down.
Environmental damage, rapidly changing technology, economic turbulence, political upheavals...All of these contribute to a climate of uncertainty which can cause a great deal of stress for those who are just starting out in their lives.
• Greater awareness
It’s very much worth noting that public campaigning, and the willingness of certain celebrities to share tales of their mental health struggles (Stephen Fry, Carrie Fisher, and Lady Gaga spring to mind) has drastically changed attitudes towards mental illness over the past couple of decades. Not only are we now more aware of how mental illnesses may manifest, it’s also far less stigmatising to be mentally ill than it used to be. This is, of course, a good thing. Anyone with a mental illness is already suffering enough, without the added problem of having to struggle with societal prejudice. However, some argue that this awareness is in part skewing mental illness statistics. We’re not more mentally ill than we used to be – it’s just that people are more likely to recognise when there’s a problem, and openly seek help for it. Getting therapy as young people is no longer the stigmatised thing that it used to be.
HOW TO GET MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT FOR YOUNG PEOPLE
Getting therapy for young people with mental health issues really can make an incredible difference. A good counsellor will help them to get to the root of their problems, work through the things which are troubling them, and teach them strategies to help them move forward with their lives in a mentally healthy way.
However, finding a counsellor for young people can be a lengthy process, depending on the nature of their problems and the support available in your area. If you want to act quickly, it may be a good idea to seek a private counsellor.
You can find some general guidelines to finding the right counsellor on our website. It’s important to find a properly accredited counsellor, to ensure that they are professional and know what they’re doing. It’s also really important that client and counsellor get on well and feel comfortable with one another. In order to be successful, counselling needs to be based on a relationship of mutual trust, respect, and goodwill. Types of therapy used by counsellors vary (and it might take a few tries before you find the one which works best for you) but the most important thing to concentrate on is the relationship you can build up with the counsellor.
If you would like further information on counselling and Psychotherapy and how it may benefit you or your loved ones, please contact Rebeccah Evans Counselling & Psychotherapy on 0404 811 761, register your details on the contact page or drop in to #circlewellness at Peregian Beach and arrange an initial appointment to discuss your concerns.
Rebeccah has extensive training and experience working with children, adolescents and families for a range of issues and provides one to one sessions to work through concerns and learn effective emotional regulation addressing emerging mental health concerns.
I look forward to meeting you