May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This story is part one in a series on mental health and teens.
By John Sutherland
There has been a huge rise in mental health awareness in our culture over the past few years. After years of people struggling in silence, it is now much more common for people to speak out. This should not take away from how important and difficult of a topic it is, especially among teens. Mental health is not a trend or a fad that has just emerged in the last few years, it is a very real problem that 1 in 5 teens ages 13-18 struggle with.
This can be a serious issue that has a lifetime effect on people. 50% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14 and 75% by age 24. The average delay between when a person first experiences symptoms and acts on it is 8-10 years. This delay in intervention can cause huge ripple effects as 37% of students with a mental health condition age 14 or older drop out of school and 70% of kids in state and local juvenile justice systems have a mental illness.
We need to be on the lookout for potential signs that a kid may be struggling with mental health issues. The warning signs can vary with some being more obvious than others. Anyone that feels sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks may have poor mental health. Anything from severe mood swings to out-of-control risk-taking behaviors could be sign of a more serious problem. Not eating and abusive use of drugs or alcohol are also signs, but even extreme difficulty concentrating in school or overwhelming fear for no reason could point to mental health issues.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for all youth between the ages of 10-24. 90% of those who committed suicide had an underlying mental illness. Parents must act if they notice their child with these issues. Parents should talk with their pediatrician, get a referral to a mental health specialist, work with the school or connect with other families in order to get their kid the help they need. Never wait to do anything in hope that it will naturally get better; act on it as soon as possible. It could save a life.
All statistics from: https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/Children-MH-Facts-NAMI.pdf