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Early Intervention and Prevention of Mental Health Issues Amongst Youth

Lack of awareness and choosing to remain in denial are the main reasons why mental health issues in youth are allowed to linger without any intervention. The social stigma attached to mental health issues and the lingering hope that things will sort themselves out as the child grows up leads to an aggravation of issues to a point of no return. According to WHO reports one in every seven adolescents suffers from mental health issues. Unfortunately, 75 percent of young people who have mental health problems do not receive the necessary treatment.

Focus on mental health is as important as the attention given to food and physical health in children. It is essential that the emotional well-being of adolescents is handled with care by parents. You might need a combination of patience and love to handle their concerns with care and help them grow up to be well-balanced adults who can deal with the curve balls life is ready to throw at them.

What can help adolescents stay mentally healthy?

  • Having a balanced diet, exercising and maintaining good physical health is the first step.
  • Participating in extracurricular activities including indoor and outdoor games can relax the mind and body while reducing stress.
  • Being able to talk freely with family members and friends while keeping the channels of communication open is important. In the absence of an outlet, youngsters tend to bottle up their emotions which can be detrimental to their mental health in future.
  • Attending a school that focuses on the all-around well-being of its students can be a great help.
  • Participating in community activities will expose adolescents to social and environmental issues and help them widen their horizons.
  • Offering youngsters a safe living environment where they feel comfortable and can trust others is very important for their emotional health.

What factors can have an impact on the mental health of youth?

Vulnerable youngsters who are already mentally fragile may suffer in the event of being exposed to traumatic events. It could be being a witness or victim of violence, ill-treatment or sexual abuse. As the physical bodies and minds mature, teenagers undergo an emotional turmoil that is part of adolescence. It is important to manage this phase carefully as it could define their future as adults. Experiments with alcohol or drugs or sex during this phase could leave deep emotional scars and be detrimental to their mental health.

What is early intervention?

As with every other issue, early diagnosis can lead to early intervention and reduce problems before they manifest themselves in a pronounced form. This would require the awareness of parents about mental health symptoms and what they should look for in their adolescent children. Parents should know what indications to monitor and when to consult a mental health specialist to counsel the child. Addressing the problem early can definitely help in preventing or slowing down the mental disorder with or without medication. In the early stages, simple counseling may help in dispelling their fears or concerns and help them strengthen their minds.

What are the manifestations of mental health issues in youth?

  • Exposure to adverse situations at home, violent parenting, sexual abuse by trusted adults, peer pressure to conform, discovering orientation, substance abuse, and addiction can all create conditions that can impact mental health.
  • Overthinking along with panic can lead to anxiety disorders and depression as well. This can affect performance at school/college. It can even lead to suicidal thoughts which require immediate medical attention.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is more likely to affect young adolescents than older ones. Symptoms include trouble paying attention, hyperactivity, dangerous behaviour with no worry about outcomes etc. This can affect academic performance, misconduct and even criminal behaviour.
  • Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are common among youngsters who are obsessed with their body weight and looks. It can often lead to medical complications and even death.
  • Irrational fears, delusions and hallucinations can impair a youngster’s ability to think and act normally. This can lead to dangerous situations unless the matter is addressed immediately.
  • Inflicting self-harm and suicidal behaviour can lead to deaths in adolescents.
  • Addiction to drugs and alcohol can begin in adolescence due to exposure to the wrong set of people. Unless corrected immediately, it can lead to low academics, unemployment, criminal behaviour and suicide or violent death.

Prevention and Promotion 

Interventions for mental health promotion and prevention aim to improve an individual’s ability to regulate emotions, improve alternatives to risk-taking behaviours, build resilience for dealing with difficult situations and adversity, and promote supportive social environments and social networks.

These programs necessitate a multi-level approach with various delivery platforms – such as digital media, health or social care settings, schools, colleges or the community – and diverse strategies to reach adolescents, particularly the most vulnerable. Parents, teachers, educators and community members all have an important role to play in addressing mental issues faced by youngsters and handling them early.

To Wrap Up

It is critical to address the needs of adolescents suffering from mental illnesses.  Mental health awareness is critical for the early identification of symptoms and seeking medical intervention.

There are a lot of resources available that can help to treat the underlying causes and rescue youth from a life plagued by mental illness. Adolescent mental health depends on avoiding institutionalization and over-medicalization, prioritizing non-pharmacological approaches, and respecting children’s rights. Early diagnosis and intervention can help to prevent or address mental health issues and resolve them early so that adolescents have an opportunity to live more fulfilling lives as adults.

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Samvedna Senior Care, G-7 Oriental Villas, Sushant Lok III, Sector 57, Gurgaon

Samvedna Senior Care, C-13 Anand Niketan, New Delhi