Last Sunday, October 10th, was World Mental Health Day, a day to help raise public awareness of mental health issues worldwide. This year the World Health Organization (WHO) chose the theme “Young people and mental health in a changing world,” which encourages us to be mindful of the issues facing our young people.
Adolescence and early adulthood bring many changes, including leaving home and starting college or a new job. For many, these are exciting times. But WHO says they can also be times of stress and apprehension that in some cases, if not managed, can lead to mental illness. Add to these changes the expanding use of online technologies at any time of the day and night and a global pandemic, and many young people are feeling constantly under pressure.
I was surprised to find that WHO says that half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, with most cases going undetected and untreated. Depression is currently the third most common illness among adolescents, with suicide being the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds. And with the pressure for the destructive use of alcohol and illicit drugs – which can lead to risky behaviors such as unsafe sex, dangerous driving and eating disorders – the tapestry of pressures facing our young people becomes more complex.
Fortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health issues is disappearing. There is a growing recognition of the importance to help our young people build, from the earliest ages, mental resilience to cope with the challenges they face in today’s world. WHO states evidence that shows promoting and protecting adolescent mental health brings benefits not just to the adolescent for the short and long-term, but to economies and societies. It is no surprise that healthy young adults make greater contributions to the workforce, their families, their communities, and society as a whole.
Much can be done to help build mental resilience from an early age. This can help prevent mental distress and illness among adolescents and young adults and increase their ability to manage and recover from mental illness should it occur later in life. A simple Google search yields hundreds of books and other resources geared toward teaching and building resiliency. Parents, grandparents, and teachers can help children and adolescents build life skills to cope with everyday challenges at home and at school, and mental health support is abundant in our community when extra assistance is needed.
By continuing to raise awareness of mental health support for adolescents, we can help our young people and support good mental health in our ever-changing world.
Christina Pierce is the publisher at Hattiesburg Publishing, which produces The Pine Belt News and Signature Magazine.