In particular, melancholy, anxiety, substance abuse problems, and an alarming trend toward suicide are among the mental health conditions that are of growing concern among kids, teens, and young people in this country. In actuality, vehicular and accidental deaths now rank first and second, respectively, among Americans aged 10 to 24 in terms of the primary causes of death. Long before COVID, this issue was there, but with the pandemic, risk factors like isolation and excessive screen time may now be amplified, so parents should be extra vigilant.
Why Is Mental Health on a Negative Trend?
It is unclear why this threat to our young people is escalating. While some of the puzzle pieces are in place, many are still missing, and it is obvious that action is needed to halt this awful loss of life.
The majority of mental health doctors concur that the technological revolution of the past two decades may be at least somewhat to blame. Children who were born around the turn of the millennium have grown up immersed in technology thanks to the internet, social media, and the widespread use of smart phones for anytime, everywhere communication. By the time kids reach puberty, this generation of “digital natives” is unable to imagine living without these conveniences since they have never experienced a world without them.
The Effects of Social Media on Children’s Lives
Children and teenagers frequently turn to their screens to share, post, and remark on the lives of others and seek uplifting feedback regarding their own experiences since they are particularly susceptible to peer pressure and the need to fit in. Regrettably, social media platforms also provide the chance for online harassment and shaming, frequently anonymously and without repercussions. Cyberbullying that goes uncontrolled can make the victim feel inferior and helpless, which increases the risk of mental health issues.
While this high-tech era of communication is advantageous in many ways, it also has drawbacks, especially for the impressionable young and helpless who are not yet able to set boundaries for themselves. Many people experience chronic sleep problems and, ironically, start to feel socially isolated as a result of their inability to voluntarily take a break from the nonstop online chatter. They spend more time texting and posting than they do actually engaging in face-to-face interactions with family and friends. Too little of either can lead to mental health difficulties since they both serve as pillars of emotional wellness—adequate sleep and deep, meaningful social interactions.
Other Things to Think About
For better or worse, today’s youth are much more knowledgeable of and fluent in the language of mental health than were their predecessors. As a result, phrases like sadness, anxiety, and even suicide have less stigma. Lack of a solid mental health foundation and low self-esteem in vulnerable children and teens can motivate them to engage in risky behaviors like substance abuse and consider suicide as a means to cope with their emotional suffering.
There is therefore no concrete evidence, despite our suspicions, that social media and technology may contribute to the current mental health crisis affecting our young people. The fact that mental health illnesses frequently emerge in the absence of these factors emphasizes the necessity of parents and other caregivers having higher levels of awareness. It is crucial that parents keep an eye out for the warning signs and symptoms of mental distress in their children and teenagers and seek professional assistance as soon as possible.
Understanding the Symptoms
In their ambition to become self-sufficient adults, older kids and teens are inherently more likely to test boundaries, challenge parental expectations, and generally fight back against authority. It is a method with a long history. It’s crucial to understand what is abnormal and to be aware of the actions that can point to a potentially serious mental health issue. These consist of:
- Long-term seclusion and estrangement from loved ones
- Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities
- Easily irritated, secretive, or too exhausted
- Alterations in appetite and sleeping habits
- Declining performance in class or involvement
- Unstable moods that might vary from melancholy and apathy to rage
It’s crucial to keep an eye out for the physical indications of drug or alcohol usage because mental health issues and substance use disorders frequently coexist. These indications may include:
- Having reddened eyes or dilated pupils
- Unexpected weight increase or loss
- Tremors, sways, and/or flushing of the face
- Bad hygiene
- Several nosebleeds
- Bruises or other strange wounds
Do not dismiss or write off any of these physical or behavioral changes in your kid or adolescent as a phase. Ask your child directly and non-confrontationally if they are feeling anxious, depressed, or even suicidal in a private talk. Asking the question again won’t make things worse, so be persistent. It’s more likely to provide your youngster the chance to express themselves and talk about their feelings.
Even if they deny it, if you believe your child is experiencing mental health problems, you should think about getting them assessed by a pediatric behavioral health specialist.