In our world, approximately 1.8 billion youngsters age between 12-25 years are presently contributing around one-fourth of the all-out total population. Nine out of 10 of them live in less developed countries. India has the world’s highest number of this age group with 356 million, despite having a smaller population than China. India has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. It is expected that in 2024 the average age of an Indian will be 29 years. Of all the population groups, the young population is growing fastest, especially in the poorest nations.
The young age is one of the most important phases of life, being the formative period with major impacts on the future. The phase carries special significance for mental health since most mental and substance use disorders have onset at a young age or adolescence and many tend to run a chronic or relapsing course. A world-changing at a fast pace carries special significance here since it further poses a challenge to mental health, especially for the young who are in a formative stage of life.
Changing world and Mental health of the Youth
To be in optimal mental health is essential for optimal functioning as well as for productivity for any person. In the last few decades, the world has been changing very fast, especially with the invention of faster modes of transport, ease of migration across countries, and the revolutionary developments in information technology (IT). This has brought major challenges to mental health professionals.
Blue Whale game is a recent example of such harm. Increasing violence in young people is another important issue needing attention since youth are at risk of being victims as well as perpetrators of violence. Cyberbullying is another mode of bullying, which has become increasingly common in the last few years with the increased access to and use of internet-based services.
Things that can help keep youngsters mentally well include:
- being in good physical health, eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise
- having the time and the freedom to play indoors and outdoors games
- being part of a family that gets along well most of the time
- taking part in local activities for young people
Other factors are also important, including:
- feeling loved, trusted, understood, valued and safe
- being interested in life and having opportunities to enjoy themselves
- being hopeful and optimistic
- being able to learn and having opportunities to succeed
- having a sense of belonging in their family, college and community
- feeling they have some control over their own life
- having the strength to cope when something is wrong and the ability to solve problems.
What mental health problems commonly appear in youngsters?
These are some of the mental health problems that can affect youngsters. Depression affects more children and young people today than in the last few decades, but it is still more common in adults. Teenagers are more likely to experience depression than young people. Self-harm is a very common problem among young people. Some people find it helps them manage intense emotional pain if they harm themselves, through cutting or burning, for example. They may not wish to take their own life.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can follow physical or sexual abuse, witnessing something extremely frightening of traumatizing, being the victim of violence or severe bullying, or surviving a disaster. Young people who are consistently overactive, behave impulsively, and have difficulty paying attention may have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Many more boys than girls are affected, but the cause of ADHD isn’t fully understood.
How to tackle with change?
Mostly things that happen to many youths is that they don’t lead to mental health problems on their own, but traumatic events can trigger problems for children and young people who are already vulnerable. Changes often act as triggers: moving home or school or the birth of a new brother or sister, for example. Some younger persons who start their college feel excited about making new friends and doing new activities, but there may also be some who feel anxious about entering a new environment.
Teenagers often experience emotional turmoil as their minds and bodies develop. An important part of growing up is working out and accepting who you are. Some young people find it hard to make this transition to adulthood and may experiment with alcohol, drugs, or other substances that can affect mental health.
Nishant Kumar Bisoyee