Mental Health in Children and Youth

Mental Health | Introduction

Mental health is often described as one’s emotional, social, and behavioural well-being. Maintaining one’s mental health and wellness can be quite challenging. Mental health can also affect various areas of one’s life that may including social life, relationships, and behaviour in general. When someone suffers from the common cold, they take a day off and are advised to rest.

Similar to this, if someone’s mental health isn’t sound, it greatly affects their day-to-day life and hence should be advised to get proper treatment. An English translation of a famous quote by Greek philosopher Thales state ‘A sound mind in a sound body, meaning the close links between physical exercise, mental equilibrium, and the ability to enjoy life.’ Therefore, mental health should be taken as seriously as physical health to maintain a quality of life.

Mental Health of Children

Most people develop mental issues from time rather than being born with them. Therefore, the idea of children suffering from mental illness often indicates that the child might have experienced some kind of trauma to suffer from mental illness at such a young stage of their life. According to CDC, mental illness among children is described as serious changes in a child’s learning and behaving, which causes distress and inconveniences throughout the day.

However, the absence of mental illness doesn’t indicate mental well-being. Children that are not diagnosed with mental disorders might differ in their behaviours and the children who are diagnosed with any disorders can have different abilities to cope and live through that disorder.

Similarly, symptoms of mental disorders in children can differ from one child to another and can change over the time of their growth. However, the symptoms may include how the child behaves, learns, plays speaks, acts, and how they handle their emotions. Symptoms are usually diagnosed during the early stages but the disorders may develop furthermore in their older or teenage years.

Most likely, the mental issues in children are neglected due to their inability to express their emotions properly.

 

Mental Health Issues in Childrenmental health in children

Children with mental health issues are usually dealing with a wide range of problems. These problems have not only affected the children but also their parents by creating some difficulties in the household. These difficulties may include effects on the interaction between the parents and the child, difficulty in home life, learning ability of the child, difficulty in expressing themselves emotionally, and the child feeling like a sense of burden to the parents.

However, in most cases, problems in the household of the child result in them developing mental illnesses in the early stages of their lives. Some household reasons may include constant tension between the parents, the socio-economic status of the family, poor health, domestic violence, etc.

According to Brooks-Gunn and Duncan (1997), children from consistently poorer families are more likely to suffer from internalizing and externalizing behavioural problems than children who are never poor. Some other reasons for a child developing mental illness may include bullying in their school, watching or experiencing something traumatic, etc.

In the United States alone, data from the 2005-2006 National Health Interview Survey indicated that about 8.3 million children (14.5%), all aged between 4 to 17 years old, had their parents consult a health staff or a school counsellor about their children’s mental well-being.

Youth and their Mental Health

The mental health of youths has been declining at a very steady rate. As these youths hit puberty, various parts of the change too, and they tend to become more emotionally confused. The changes are hard for them to accept. Usually, people between the ages of 15 to 24 are in this grey area of transitioning from childhood to adulthood.

They are told to fit in and get even more stressed out by that thought. Various things such as physical change, hormonal imbalance, increase in academic pressure, misunderstanding parents, etc. make them stress more and more. While some things may change, some of those ups and downs will stay mentally for a longer period. Hence, causes various mental health issues such as depression, self-harm, and suicide.

Depression can be a result of stress but also genetics. There is about a 40% chance that one can develop depression over time genetically around the same time their parents had depression. A lot of youths tend to deal with mental problems through self-harm. People tend to hurt themselves physically to release the pain they feel mentally. According to a study done by Heathy place, 90% of people who engage in self-harm begin during their teens or pre-teen age. Cutting oneself can start from the tender age of 14 and can carry that trait to adulthood. Similarly, the teen suicide rate has been a continuously growing concern.

Mental Health Issues With Youth

Youths with such issues are generally sensitive to topics such as social exclusion, stigma, discrimination, academic difficulties, physical health, human rights breach, etc. Mental health disorders are such huge topics that they are categorized as emotional disorders (anxiety and depression), behavioural disorders (ADHD), eating disorders, and psychosis. 

It is seen that 50% of mental disorders begin by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24. The prevalence of mental disorders in children and youth globally is 10-20%. In the case of Nepal, 40% of the total population comprises people younger than 18 years of age. Therefore, this huge proportion is at risk of developing a mental disorder.

In 2019, it was estimated that one in seven youths experience some kind of mental health problem globally yet most of these youth’s health problems are unrecognized and untreated. This amounts to an estimation of 166 million youths which includes 89 million boys and 77 million girls globally. Of those 166 million individuals, 78 million are aged from 10 to 14 (44 million boys and 34 million girls) and 85 million are aged from 15 to 19 (44 million boys and 41 million girls). According to U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 24.

‘Mental Health’ not a Taboo

The world is growing in terms of science and technology. With this advancement, people’s life expectancy has increased to 72 years but the mental health status of a large number of populations is declining. Mental traumas are a huge issue in today’s world for children as well as youths.

The traumas should be dealt with in time, the feelings should be considered and the wall separating mental health issues from other physical health issues should be taken down. Many countries have now introduced mental health care plans for their citizens.

Even though mental health problems are still not included in primary health care in Nepal, the government has established ‘one-stop’ crisis centres in different parts of the country. To conclude, check people around you, talk to your children, listen to your friends, make your mind open and convey the message that ‘Mental Health is not a Taboo’. A Stanford-led study has found quantifiable evidence that Hiking leads to a lower risk of depression and anxiety.

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