With the rise of stress, anxiety, and tensions in our lives, it is highly important that family members communicate their feelings with each other, particularly the children.
Teenagers are facing more mental health crises than ever before, causing a spike in attempted suicide rates and successful suicides as well. This is a cause of concern not only in Pakistan but across the globe.
Moreover, this alarming rise in numbers makes it all the more important for people to understand that mental health issues are real and not just a taboo. Statistics have shown that ever since we faced the pandemic crisis, the situation of mental health has worsened especially among young adults.
“Mental health issues in children and teenagers have been steadily increasing over the last decade or so,” says pediatric psychologist Ethan Benore, PhD. “However, in the last two years — in part related to the pandemic — there has been a significant increase in teens who are facing mental health difficulties.”
So why is this happening?
What Affects Mental Health?
There are many factors in an individual’s life that contribute to the instability of mental health. Sometimes, it is being constantly bullied in school and at home, other times it’s a traumatic event like the loss of a loved one, for some it’s academic achievement, for others financial issues, overexposure to social media, poor eating habits, and many more.
The standard teen experience can be a chaotic environment,” Dr. Benore says. “No one who is depressed wants to feel depressed, but teenagers especially struggle with modifying their emotions.” In short, there is a trigger hidden in every individual which can be triggered due to any number of reasons.
“We know children benefit from stability, structure, routine and the support of trusting adults, but during the pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in overall instability and changing structures,” Dr. Benore says. “No, we’re seeing an increased volume of children needing a higher level of care.”
“All of this and more can make our children feel like they’re living in an unsafe world, which can be overwhelming and fatiguing,” Dr. Benore says. “It can seem hopeless to a young person who’s just starting to understand this larger world.”
In a recent study conducted by the CDC during the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States, it was found that in 2021, more than a third (37%) of high school students reported they experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year.
Moreover, 55% of teens had been victims of emotional abuse by a parent or adult at home. Whereas 11% experienced physical abuse at home including kicking, beatings, and being hurt. More than 29% of adults/parents lost their jobs and financial security.
“These data echo a cry for help,” said CDC Acting Principal Deputy Director Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental well-being. Our research shows that surrounding youth with the proper support can reverse these trends and help our youth now and in the future.”
What are the Signs of Teen Depression?
Depression has a different way of showing itself depending on the person. For some teens it’s frequent mood swings, changes in behaviour, at times wreckless behaviour and suicidal tendencies, they talk about harming themselves or others. Some carry out violent attacks on others or animals (pets, strays), they may be cutting themselves, or using substances.
Asides from counselling and professional help, parents can help make things better by firstly being there for their child. Listen to them, and understand where they are coming from. Try to set realistic expectations that they are able to meet and feel good about it. Praise them, give compliments, encourage them, offer help even though it seems like they have everything handled, accept their identity, and do not wait for their ‘phase’ to pass.
Pakistani parents need to start normalizing communication with their children. In most households parents and children are unable to even speak to one another and have a proper conversation, while respect is to be given, it is also important to talk things out and give mutual respect.
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