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The Most Serious Mental Illnesses in Young People: Prioritizing Wellbeing for a Fulfilling Future 

common mental health issues affecting adolescents

Adolescence is a remarkable and transformative period in a young person’s life. It is a time of self-discovery, growth, and exploration. As parents, we witness our children undergo physical, emotional, and social changes, navigating the complexities of their developing identities. This journey can be both exhilarating and challenging as children face various pressures and vulnerabilities, including the potential impact on their mental health. 

In today’s world, the significance of addressing adolescent mental health has never been greater. Globally, one in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 19 experiences a mental disorder, accounting for 13% of the global disease burden in this age group. Depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders are among adolescents’ most serious mental illnesses. These statistics are not meant to alarm us but to emphasize the importance of recognizing and addressing the mental health needs of young people. 

This article will explore key factors influencing adolescent mental health, shed light on common mental health disorders experienced by young people, and discuss strategies and interventions to promote mental wellbeing. 

Understanding the Determinants of Serious Mental Illness 

Parents play a vital role in supporting the wellbeing of young people, including their mental health. It is essential to understand that adolescence is a vulnerable time when exposure to factors such as poverty, abuse, or violence can impact mental wellness. Creating safe, nurturing, and open environments that foster socio-emotional learning, psychological wellbeing, and resilience is key. By doing so, young people gain the tools needed to navigate challenges, enabling them to grow into confident and fulfilled adults.  

During adolescence, several factors play a crucial role in shaping mental wellness. Doctors recommend adopting healthy sleep patterns, regular exercise, developing coping and problem-solving skills, and managing emotions as essential habits to promote mental health. But typical teenage life experience can make regulation difficult. Exposure to adversity, peer pressure, and exploration of identity can lead to stress and can’t necessarily be avoided.  

What can adults do to create safe environments at home and school to support adolescents’ mental wellbeing? Below, we’ll explore strategies for insulating young people against some of the most serious mental illnesses.  

Understanding the Unique Challenges and Vulnerable Groups Impacted by the Most Serious Mental Illnesses 

Adolescents struggling with the most serious mental health conditions often face social exclusion, discrimination, stigma, and educational difficulties. Several vulnerable groups require special attention, including those living in humanitarian and fragile settings and those with chronic illnesses, autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities, or neurological conditions. Thinking globally, pregnant adolescents, adolescent parents, those in early or forced marriages, orphans, and adolescents from minority ethnic or sexual backgrounds are also at greater risk. 

Let’s take a closer look at the most serious mental illnesses commonly experienced by teens and young adults.  

Common Mental Health Disorders in Adolescents 

Because adolescence is a crucial period of growth and development, it’s also when many young people experience common mental health disorders that can significantly impact their wellbeing. To provide your young adult with effective support and intervention, it’s essential to understand the most serious mental health disorders and their prevalence among adolescents. 

Emotional Disorders 

Emotional disorders encompass anxiety disorders, depression, and other mood-related mental health issues. Anxiety disorders, characterized by panic and excessive worry, are the most prevalent among adolescents, with older adolescents being more affected. Depression, estimated to affect 1.1% of 10-14 year-olds and 2.8% of 15-19 year-olds, can lead to severe consequences, including suicide. It is vital to recognize the shared symptoms of anxiety and depression, such as rapid mood changes, withdrawal, and social difficulties. 

Behavioral Disorders 

Younger adolescents are more prone to behavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorders. ADHD affects 3.1% of 10-14 year-olds and 2.4% of 15-19 year-olds, while conduct disorder occurs among 3.6% of 10-14 year-olds and 2.4% of 15-19 year-olds. These disorders can significantly impact education, social relationships and even lead to criminal behavior. 

Eating Disorders 

Adolescence is a critical period for emerging eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. These disorders involve abnormal eating behaviors, obsession with body weight, and shape concerns. Anorexia nervosa, in particular, carries a higher mortality rate than any other mental disorder and can have devastating consequences. 

By recognizing the common mental health disorders that affect adolescents, we can break the stigma surrounding these conditions and ensure that young people receive the care they need. Promoting awareness, early detection, and appropriate interventions empowers adolescents to lead healthier and more fulfilling lives. 

Addressing Adolescent Mental Health: Strategies and Interventions 

Addressing the mental health needs of adolescents requires a comprehensive approach that considers their unique challenges and vulnerabilities. Implementing effective strategies and interventions can significantly support their wellbeing and promote positive mental health outcomes. 

Promotion and Prevention 

Mental health promotion and prevention interventions focus on enhancing emotional regulation, providing alternatives to risk-taking behaviors, building resilience, and fostering supportive social environments. Utilizing various delivery platforms, including digital media, health and social care settings, schools, and communities, can effectively reach adolescents, particularly the most vulnerable. 

Early Detection and Treatment 

Recognizing the needs of adolescents with mental health conditions, it is crucial to prioritize non-pharmacological approaches and respect their rights. If you notice signs that your teenager or young adult is struggling with their mental health, don’t hesitate to open an honest conversation with them about their struggles. Once you know more about what they’re facing, you can take steps to help alleviate their struggle.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed the Helping Adolescents Thrive (HAT) Initiative, a collaborative effort with UNICEF to strengthen policies and programs for adolescent mental health. The WHO’s mhGAP Intervention Guide 2.0 also provides evidence-based clinical protocols for managing mental health conditions in non-specialized care settings. 

Addressing adolescent mental health is an urgent and multifaceted task that requires collective attention and action. Neglecting adolescent mental health reverberates far beyond adolescence, affecting individuals’ physical and mental wellbeing in adulthood and limiting their opportunities for leading fulfilling lives. Parents, educators, healthcare providers, and society as a whole are responsible for prioritizing and investing in the mental wellbeing of our young people. A multi-dimensional approach will best address adolescent mental health, including prevention, early detection, intervention, and support.  

Raising awareness and fostering open conversations about mental health in homes, schools, and communities creates environments where young people feel safe, supported, and encouraged to seek help when needed. Parents play a crucial role in providing their children with a nurturing and understanding environment. Recognizing the significance of adolescent mental health and taking proactive steps to support young people can create a future where society prioritizes mental wellbeing, eliminates stigma, and every adolescent can thrive.  

To learn more about mental health disorders or to seek the help of a mental health professional, do not hesitate to call Turnbridge. Turnbridge is a recognized mental health treatment provider with both inpatient and outpatient programs for young men and women. Call 877-581-1793 to speak with a treatment specialist today.