Mental Illness

Muskan Babwani, Editor

In recent times, there has been an increase in rates of mental illness in teens. The result of this has hindered the lives of many teens and preadolescent every step of the way. There are many factors which risk one’s mental health. Consumption of drugs and alcohol, being overloaded with work resulting in bad sleeping habits, over usage of the internet and social media, and death in the family or past tragedy are some examples of such risks. Mental illness is defined as “a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder resulting in…functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The problem of mental illness has gotten to the point where action has to be taken as soon as possible before the matter gets out of hand. The education system needs to make changes in order to address problems relating to mental health and ensure that it is given top priority among the youth by providing schools with a committee of counselors who specialize in dealing with the mental health of students. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an average of 3.2 million teens have encountered at least one major depressive and/or anxiety episode in the past year. These numbers have gone up between the years 2007 and 2012 by a shocking 20%. As per the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), only an average of 50.6% of youth, aged 6-17, with a mental health disorder receive proper treatment. Additionally, the other 50 percent are left alone to figure out what to do with their mental health and its effect on their everyday lives by themselves. When depression is left untreated, there are possibilities of leading to many additional problems, such as a decrease in motivation and self- esteem. The aforementioned could be extremely harmful to anyone, but especially for the youth who are expected to make decisions, such as career and college, which will impact and shape the rest of their lives.

There are many factors that could lead to unhealthy mental wellbeing, exposure to drugs can be a major contributing factor. Teens and preadolescents are the ones who are most likely to be pressured into consuming drugs and alcohol. According to The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, alcohol has created a huge impact on kids’ lives “by the time children reach the sixth grade.” In the article, there were multiple instances of children getting exposed to many advertisements and television shows which showcase drinking, smoking, and drugs as a rebellious and “cool” thing to do. This persuades them into trying drugs and alcohol for themselves and once they have substance abuse issues, teens find it extremely difficult to crawl out. 

Along the same lines, in an experiment conducted by the RAND Corporation, they found data which declared out of around 1,700 sixth graders from a middle school in South Dakota, roughly 17% of the kids consumed beer in the past year. The mentioned experiment was conducted using the same group of students, after a gap of two years and the results stretched up to a little over 50 percent. The reason for underaged drinking or consumption of other drugs could be peer-pressure or just the lack of its effects in one’s life. According to Rand Corporations, the major cause of underage drinking is either limited parent involvement and/or excessive exposure to alcohol and drugs which have been considered as depressants for ages. Keeping the above information in mind, if children are exposed to such disruptive habits from a young age, they are bound to develop mental illnesses by the time they are teens or preadolescents.  

Another factor that could initially lead to mental illness in teens and preadolescents is an unhealthy sleep cycle and overload of work. Students have to learn to balance their lives, especially high schoolers who have to handle work, school, and extracurricular activities, which has resulted in teens becoming more and more stressed. While trying to maintain such rigorous activities, sleep is the last thing a student thinks of. According to the Anatolian Journal of Psychiatry, sleep is essential for the proper function of one’s body.  Poor sleeping habits may result in problems related to mood and behavior, attention, as well as memory. An irregular sleep schedule results in many illnesses, insomnia being the most common. After conducting an experiment with healthy and depressed teens and adolescents, the Anatolian Journal of Psychiatry concluded there was an obvious pattern between a disruptive sleep schedule and having mental health issues.  

The over usage of social media and the internet has also been thought to be the leading cause of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.  According to Drug Invention Today, there are many side-effects associated with the usage of social media, which overshadows the positive benefits. “Social media can create a lot of pressure to create the stereotype that others want to see and also being as popular as others.” On social media, the majority of the people tend to compare themselves with others out there who are superior to them, either in terms of wealth, friends or looks. The people, then, feel devastated and gain the feeling that their lives are not fulfilling compared to the lives of others. In recent times, there have been many major social media advancements. Instagram, Snapchat, and Tiktok, which recently joined the social media world, are some popular examples of social media that are overused by Teens and preadolescents.  After conducting an experiment, Drug Invention Today concluded about 57% of the entire teen population uses social media for entertainment purposes and to keep up with trends an average of 8 hours out of a normal day. Keeping in mind how dangerously harmful social media over-usage could be to one’s mental healthcare, action needs to be taken.

Everyone has different methods for dealing with grief and stress. Some might perform their favorite activities or sports, whereas others might feel as though they are stuck in the never-ending cycle of depression. The passing away of a loved one is an extremely difficult time for them. Seeing their family struggle with them adds on to the pain and grief. According to Healthline.com, sadness and grief, which come alongside the death of a loved one, are normal. When grief and sadness do not go away for a moderate amount of time, then there are possibilities of the feeling turning into depression. As per the article, depression is constantly feeling down and depressed, whereas having grief means one feels waves of sadness and lows.  The article also mentions that grief can be dealt with by the passing of time. The grief and sadness will vanish on its own after a certain point of time, depending on how to hurt one is. On the contrary, once the grief turns into depression, it is extremely difficult to pull one’s self out of its trap. 

As mentioned previously, preadolescents and teens need assistance to deal with their lives, which is full of hardships and struggles. Each and every child has a unique set of problems that need to be solved. At such a young age, dealing with such is not easy and many do not come from a healthy and positive family background. This results in them feeling uncomfortable in sharing their feelings with their family. Hence the need for counselors specialized in mental healthcare. These counselors could individually sit with the students and go through a cognitive behavior therapy section about once a month in order to replace negative thoughts with a more positive outlook on life.