DR. AJAZ AHMAD SUHAFF
Mental health is described as a state of well-being and is important at every stage of life as a baby, child, and adolescent as well as throughout adulthood. The definition of young people is often used interchangeably, and a variety of official definitions exist. The World Health Organisation defines it using the following age groups:
o Adolescent – age 10 – 19 years
o Youth – age 15 – 24 years
o Young people – age 10 – 24 years
The youth is defined by the United Nations as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years. Young people form precious human resources in every country. They have complex emotions and are aware of emotions in their environment that may manifest as low self-esteem, sadness, irritability, self harm and so on. The young and adolescent age is the period for major physiological, emotional and social changes and the most vulnerable age for the onset of most mental disorders.
Depression is a serious concern among youth and suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds. Young people are witnessing violence and disasters on a regular basis and can be affected by these events around them and the consequences of these events can be long lasting. An adolescent girl dies as a result of violence every 10 minutes somewhere in the world. Poor mental health is strongly related to other health and development concerns in young people, which include lower educational abilities, substance abuse and violence.
A strong relation exists between poor mental health and many other health and development concerns for young people, notably with educational achievements, substance use and abuse, violence, and reproductive and sexual health. The risk factors for mental disorders are well established, and substantial progress has been made in developing effective interventions for such problems. Research has also identified the following risk factors among our youth: Those who suffered a traumatic experience, poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, poor quality sleep, excessive use of cell phones, tablets, computers, television, youth who are bullied at schools and colleges, with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, with a family member who has anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or suffering from substance abuse and poor management of coping with stress.
The prevalence of mental disorders needs to be understood in the context of the high and ever increasing evidence of suicidal behaviour in the young population. It is estimated that only 20 percent of these child and adolescents are ever diagnosed and receive treatment with a mental health disorder and 80 percent are not receiving treatment prolonging the lifetime and impact of their illness. Though very difficult to identify but early identification of mental illnesses among youth is important.
Parents, teachers and physicians need to be cautious for the warning signs among youth which may be the indicative of mental illnesses. When a young person often feels anxious or worried; has frequent stomachaches or headaches with no physical explanation; experiences difficulty with sleep, loses interest in things they once enjoyed doing; isolates themselves; has trouble in school or their grades begin to decline; feels tired, lacks energy or is disconnected; fears weight gain, constantly exercises, or develops unusual food consumption; or engages in risky, destructive behavior, including drinking, smoking, or other drug use.
The theme of the World Mental Health Day 2018 will demonstrate the importance of creating more services and better care for our young people, and the issues they are experiencing the most these days. The acts of prevention, early interventions, resilience, available information and services are the key factors in creating a healthy future for our young people. A young person with support, stability and the information will usually lead to a positive, healthy adult.
So, early interventions, prevention, resilience support and programs to educate young people and the world around them should be instituted by providing balanced lifestyle actions which includes balanced diet, exercise, and healthy sleep hygiene. Parents must maintain good communication with their children by encouraging them to talk, being able to listen and respond in a sensitive way to all kinds of things. It is very important for the mental health professionals to target awareness and address stigma around mental illness include participation by family members, sensitization to treatment and social inclusion.
—The author is a Senior Resident at the Department of Psychiatry, SKIMS Medical College , Bemina. He can be reached at: email@example.com