Adolescent mental health

Recognizing Critical Adolescent Mental Health Issues and Providing Support to Teens

Meet Alex, a 15-year-old teenager living in the heart of the digital age. Alex’s days consist of a whirlwind of academic obligations, extra-curricular activities, and social media, much like countless other teens today.

Most days, Alex feels excited to get online and catch up with the latest celebrity gossip, dancing trends, and more. However, on this particular day, something didn’t quite feel right.

The polished online lives of his peers stirred feelings of inadequacy and a hint of envy. His friends online seemed to be having fun, posting the latest gadgets he could barely afford. Already overwhelmed by a demanding school life, Alex felt a wave of depressive emotions wash over him.

In today’s digital age, young adults like Alex face unique mental health challenges, ranging from social media influence to academic pressures and shifting peer dynamics.

To help young adults navigate this challenging yet exciting growth phase, we explore the critical mental health issues they face today and the signs of their silent battles. Lastly, we explore tips on offering compassionate support to help them lead fulfilling lives.

What Are the Most Common Adolescent Mental Health Problems

Teen mental health concerns include poor interpersonal relationships and worrying eating habits.
Teen mental health concerns include poor interpersonal relationships and worrying eating habits.

Adolescent mental health can take on many forms in today’s fast-paced and technology-driven world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report increasing signs of deteriorating adolescent mental health. Nearly 57% of teen girls experience persistent depressive feelings and thoughts of self-harm.

To better support adolescents’ mental health, here are some of the most common mental illnesses to look out for:

Social Media Anxiety

Social media excels at creating an illusion of perfection. Young adults may develop anxiety from trying to curate a perfect online life similar to the one displayed by popular influencers.

Fear of Missing Out, FOMO

Trends come and go at a frightening speed that may leave teens with a fear of missing out. This constant need to stay updated on social events or top fashion trends may result in mental health disorders.

Cyberbullying and Anxiety

There have been cases of cyberbullying leading young people to their deaths. Unfortunately, online hatred and bigotry are still a leading cause of depressive symptoms in young adulthood.

Academic Overload

Worrying about academic performance can lead to youth mental health issues such as generalized anxiety disorder due to future uncertainties.

Signs of Teen Mental Health Challenges to Look Out For

Here are some warning signs of a mental health challenge in early adulthood:

Decline in Real-Life Interaction

Excessive scrolling can lead to social isolation and loneliness.
Excessive scrolling can lead to social isolation and loneliness.

Virtual connections have become a norm, especially in early adulthood.

Teens grappling with issues like social anxiety disorder may increasingly prefer spending time online rather than with friends or family. This may result in a decline in interpersonal skills, which can cause stress and loneliness.

Scrolling Obsession

Spending copious amounts of time scrolling may point to more significant issues, especially if the excessive screen time is coupled with seeking validation or participating in comparison culture.

Spending too much time on the phone, especially at night, can also lead to difficulty sleeping, which may negatively affect their mental and physical well-being.

Academic Disinterest

Adolescent mental health issues can cause a decline in academic interest. High school students with common mental health disorders are more prone to failing grades and declining school performance.

Escape Through Substance Use

Teens may self-medicate their mental illness with vaping or excessive caffeine intake. Additionally, due to troubling emotions and mood disorders resulting from serious issues such as eating disorders, some teens may participate in binge drinking or even take drugs to self-soothe.

Online Identity Discrepancy

In a bid to fit in, teens may create a curated online version of their lives. They may present this version to the detriment of their real identities. The discrepancy between these two worlds can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection.

Positive vibes only” isn’t a thing. Humans have a wide range of emotions, and that’s okay.

How to Provide Support for Adolescents with a Mental Health Disorder

Recognizing signs of a mental health crisis in teens is crucial in offering them the proper support with compassion and empathy. Here are some tips to better support young people with mental health struggles:

  • Encourage openness in communication with your teens. It is much easier to help teens when they feel safe to communicate their fears, emotional turbulence, and other mental health struggles they may be experiencing. 
  • Create a non-judgemental space and encourage them to talk about their struggles. Listen empathetically with genuine interest and care. 
  • Make time to discuss the issue of online identity. In addition to all the other pressures of life, teens have to wrestle with the ruthlessly harsh online world. Discuss online identity and the importance of maintaining originality, practicing internet safety, and embracing online and offline self-acceptance.
  • Stay vigilant against substance abuse, especially if you know of a young person engaging in it. Consider seeking professional help. Teens taking drugs engage in risky or destructive behavior, which is a serious concern for their safety.
  • Become part of the change by encouraging healthy lifestyle choices. Generally, young people learn a lot through observing the adults around them. You can be a beacon of light to younger adults with mental health conditions by modeling healthy life choices, such as minimizing screen time and living authentically.

Resources for Further Assistance With Teenage Mental Health

It's never too late for young adults to cultivate positive mental health.
It’s never too late for young adults to cultivate positive mental health.

Adolescents today face unique mental health concerns, from major depressive disorder and anorexia nervosa to general teen stress.

However, with the right supportive environment, they can go on to learn critical coping skills to manage stress and regulate emotions. It is essential to remember that support and resources are within reach.

Here are some helpful links for help with mental health difficulties in teens:

  • Tarrant County MHMR (MHMR of Tarrant County) MHMR offers various mental health services, from crisis intervention to adolescent counseling and therapy.
  • Tarrant Cares’ website provides directories of local mental health services and resources.
  • Reach out to these additional hotlines for support regarding teen mental health, substance use, and suicide prevention.
  • Here is an infographic illustration with tips on how to talk to kids about mental health.
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