"It's just a phase"

The Dismissal of Mental Health in Teenagers

By Grace Farrar

The World Health Organisation (2020) state that globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness among adolescents. Sadly, this reflects an ongoing pattern that mental illness, such as anxiety, depression and attention behaviour disorders are increasing at an alarming rate amongst teenagers (Patalay and Gage, 2019, ACOG, 2020).  Various research studies have conducted work to investigate this phenomenon, with suggestions that before the age of 18, 2 in every 10 children/youth will have some form of mental illness (Shaffer et al, 2018)

Do teenagers feel they can reach out and access help?

It appears apparent that mental health among adolescents has declined over recent years. One study conducted over a ten-year period concluded that both depressive symptoms and self-harm were higher in 2015 compared to 2005 (Patalay and Gage, 2019). Additionally, concern is given to the realisation that globally, an estimated 10-20% of adolescents experience mental health conditions, but some remain underdiagnosed and thus untreated (Kessler, Angermeyer, Anthony et al, 2007).

There are various debates surrounding the cause for the increase of mental health issues among adolescents, some referencing exam/academic stress, pressure for peer approval and their identity development, figuring out who you are as a person (WHO, 2020). However, the attitude that they are just being a ‘moody teenager’ can be detrimental and lead to both under-diagnosis and a failure to treat their mental health, which can go on to have a detrimental impact (Kessler, Angermever, Anthony et al, 2007).

It can be very hard for teenagers to reach out and speak out, some of them may be confused about their mental health or unsure why they feel the way they do. Common symptoms of mental health issues in teenagers are recognised as continuous low mood, being irritable, little or no enjoyment in activities that interested them, social isolation and disturbed sleep patterns (NHS, 2021).

What if I don’t want to speak out?

As a teenager, the best piece of advice is if you are feeling like your mental health is suffering, reach out and speak to someone that you trust, just to make them aware of how you are feeling. This can feel difficult, but it could really benefit you and make you realise I am not alone, it’s a sign of strength to be able to accept help (Discovery Mood, 2021). It can feel hard to initially reach out, especially if you feel like you don’t want to, but remember that by speaking to others it gives you the opportunity to remind yourself you are not alone, and it is the first step in helping you understand your mind and get back to feeling like yourself. For some, they may not want to speak to someone they know, if you are over the age of 16, you can attend one of our Thursday evening Hubs where will provide support but speaking about it helps us to remove the stigma one mask at a time!

Grace Farrar

Unmasked Co-ordinator

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