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Using International Youth Day 2023 to highlight the mental health issues facing our youth.

The escalating prevalence of mental health issues among young individuals is a deeply worrisome trend that demands our immediate attention. The World Health Organisation highlights that around 20% of the world’s children and adolescents have a mental health condition, with suicide the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds (World Health Organisation, 2023). This alarming statistic signifies not only the sheer scale of the problem but also the potential for long-lasting repercussions. When left unaddressed, these mental health challenges can cast shadows on critical aspects of their lives, including overall development, educational attainment, and the realisation of their prospects. As we delve into the complexities of youth mental health, it becomes evident that intervention and support are not merely beneficial; they are essential to safeguard the well-being and potential of the generations that will shape our world.


The impact of both social media and the relentless academic pressures is a huge contribution to the rising prevalence of mental health issues amongst our youth. Primack et al., (2017) study uncovered a significant and concerning association between heightened social media usage and the increased likelihood of experiencing depression symptoms during adolescence. The constant exposure to carefully curated online lives, coupled with the prevailing fear of missing out and the unfortunate prevalence of cyberbullying, can create a toxic cocktail that fosters feelings of anxiety and loneliness, eroding the mental well-being of our youth. Simultaneously, the ever-increasing academic expectations, a pressure cooker often exacerbated by societal standards, has been starkly highlighted by Curren and Hill’s (2019) study. This study highlights the alarming surge in perfectionism among college students, a dangerous pursuit of flawlessness that results in elevated levels of anxiety, depression, and a distressing decline in self-worth. In addition to the formidable challenges posed by social media and academic pressures, the current global landscape further compounds the strain on young people's mental health. The impacts of climate change, the tumultuous political climate, the rise and uncertainty of artificial intelligence, and an unstable economy are casting a long shadow on the well-being of our youth. The uncertainty and distress caused by these external factors magnify the existing burden, leading to heightened stress and emotional turmoil.


As we explore the intricate web of factors fuelling these mental health challenges, it becomes evident that our response must be comprehensive and empathetic. It's crucial to recognise the interconnectedness of these stressors and implement a holistic approach that acknowledges the multifaceted challenges faced by our young generation. By addressing both the internal struggles and external pressures, we can provide the support and tools needed for them to navigate these turbulent times, fostering resilience and preserving their mental well-being amidst the complex web of challenges.


The critical importance of early intervention and the establishment of robust, comprehensive support systems cannot be overstated when it comes to fostering positive mental health outcomes among our youth. A recent study conducted by Young Minds (2022), revealed that an alarming one in six children, aged five to 16, were identified as having a probable mental health problem as of July 2021 in the UK. This staggering statistic reinforces the urgency for heightened awareness, augmented support structures, and timely, effective intervention strategies that prioritise the mental health of our young generation. In aligning our efforts, we possess the capacity to empower the next generation, providing them with the tools and compassionate guidance required to navigate the complexities of life while fostering resilience, hope, and a brighter future for all.


Intervention is the crucial bridge that connects the challenges faced by our youth with the brighter future we envision for them. Person-centred talking therapies, for instance, create a safe and empathetic space for young individuals to express their feelings, fears, and aspirations. This approach, guided by trained professionals, focuses on the individual's unique experiences, fostering self-awareness, emotional growth, and the development of effective coping mechanisms. By empowering young minds to openly discuss their struggles and dreams, person-centred therapies help break the isolation often associated with mental health issues, and in doing so, lay the foundation for healing and personal growth.


Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) stands as another invaluable tool. By targeting the interconnected nature of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours, CBT provides young individuals with practical skills to reframe negative thought patterns, manage stress, and navigate challenging situations. This evidence-based approach equips them with the resilience necessary to cope with academic pressures, social challenges, and the digital world's demands, thereby reducing the risk of mental health issues.

Furthermore, art, dance, and movement therapies harness the power of creativity to bridge the gap between the emotional and physical domains. These expressive therapies provide a non-verbal outlet for young people to process their feelings, offering a unique form of self-expression that often goes beyond words. Engaging in artistic endeavours enables them to tap into their inner worlds, foster self-esteem, and discover alternative avenues for communication, thereby nurturing a holistic approach to mental well-being that empowers young individuals to flourish both creatively and emotionally.


As we observe International Youth Day, bMindful Psychology commits to prioritising the mental health of our young generations. By acknowledging the concerning prevalence of mental health issues, understanding the contributing factors, and providing early intervention and comprehensive support, we can empower our youth to navigate the challenges they face, ensuring a brighter and healthier future for them.


References:

Primack, B.A., Shensa, A., Sidani, J.E., Whaite, E.O., yi Lin, L., Rosen, D., Colditz, J.B., Radovic, A. and Miller, E., 2017. Social media use and perceived social isolation among young adults in the US. American journal of preventive medicine, 53(1), pp.1-8.

Curran, T. and Hill, A.P., 2019. Perfectionism is increasing over time: A meta-analysis of birth cohort differences from 1989 to 2016. Psychological bulletin, 145(4), p.410.

Young Minds, 2022. Reports and Impact. [Online] Available at: https://www.youngminds.org.uk/about-us/reports-and-impact/ [Accessed 8 August 2023].

World Health Organisation, 2023. Mental Health. [Online] Available at: https://www.who.int/health-topics/mental-health#tab=tab_2 [Accessed 8 August 2023].

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