Mental Health Chatroom

September 6, 2022

Adolescent mental health: Our youths, our future!

WELCOME to this week’s “Mental Health Chat Room”, this is a chat room where we discuss the basics of our mental health in order to understand and have a full grasp of the rudiments of mental health and optimum mental well-being. 

“This is an essential component of our mental health advocacy activities aimed at promoting our wholesome wellness, prevent mental illness, improve our awareness of mental disorders, understand that effective, qualitative and modern (technology based) mental health care services are available in Nigeria and Globally.

“This will enhance our collective quality life, harmonious interpersonal relationships and peaceful coexistence within our communities. A recap of our last conversation where we discussed “workplace mental health: the need for work-life balance for sustainable national development”.

 We observed that our collective and sustainable development is linked to our productivity, therefore when we discuss sustainable development, we are inadvertently discussing productivity and our work-life balance which has a profound effect on our mental wellness and consequently our National sustainable development.

We concluded that generally work is good for our mental health, however many work factors can contribute to mental health problems or make existing problems worse.

An unhealthy work-life is a recipe for stress (workplace-induced stress). In order to curb the menace of unhealthy work-life balance and poor workplace mental health, it is essential to have a mental health-friendly workplace; by creating a healthy and rewarding environment needed for positive mental health, that values diversity and includes health care that incorporates mental illnesses, has programmes and practices that promote and support health and wellness of staff and family.

A healthy work-life balance and consequently optimum workplace mental health are necessary for sustainable national development. Today, our topic for discussion is “Adolescent Mental Health: Our Youth, Our Future”! Adolescence is the phase of life between childhood and adulthood, the period from puberty to adulthood; from ages 10 to 19 years according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It is a unique stage of human development and an important time for laying the foundations of good health and behaviour. It is a transitional stage of physical and psychological development that generally occurs.

Adolescence is usually associated with the teenage years, but its physical, psychological, or cultural expressions may begin earlier and end later in some individuals.

Adolescents experience rapid physical, mental and psychosocial growth and the process of adolescent transformation affects how they feel, think, make decisions, and interact with the world around them. Adolescence is a crucial period for developing and maintaining social and emotional habits important for mental well-being. These include adopting healthy sleep patterns; taking regular exercise; developing coping, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills; and learning how to manage emotions. 

Despite being thought of as a healthy stage of life, there is significant death, illness, and injury in the adolescent years and, much of this is preventable or treatable. During this phase of growth and development, adolescents establish patterns of behaviour; for instance, behaviour related to diet, physical activity, psychoactive substance use (including smoking and alcohol intake), and sexual activity that can protect their health and the health of others around them, or put their health at risk now and in the future.

Health, Mental Health, and Optimum Mental Health

In order to properly understand adolescent mental health, I would like to remind us of some definitions (most of which we have discussed previously; please check “Vanguard Mental Health Chat Room Archives” @ https://newlive.vanguardngr.com/category/columns/mental-health-chatroom/).

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Whereas our Mental Health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being, it affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Our mental health is important at every stage of our lives, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. This leads us to the definition of “mental well being”, which is a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community, it is not just mere absence of mental illness!

Consequently, it is important to understand that “optimum mental well-being” is NOT the absence of negative thoughts and feelings. We all face difficult and challenging situations that cause us to feel angry, sad, overwhelmed, and everything in-between from time to time; instead, “optimum mental well-being” is about being able to understand and manage those feelings, it is not the opposite of mental disorder!

We can then ask ourselves, why does wellness matter? The answer is simple; maintaining an optimal level of wellness is absolutely crucial to living a higher quality life.

Everything we do and every emotion we feel relates to our well-being and in turn, our well-being directly affects our actions and emotions; it is an ongoing circle. Therefore, it is important for everyone to achieve optimal wellness in order to subdue stress, reduce the risk of illness and ensure positive interactions.

Here are some key facts about “Adolescent Mental Health” as described by (WHO);

•             One in six people in the world is aged 10-19 years (Adolescent).

•             Mental health conditions account for 16 per cent of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10-19 years.

•             Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated.

•             An estimated 10-20% of adolescents globally experience mental health conditions, yet these remain underdiagnosed and undertreated.

•             Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents.

•             Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15-19-year-olds.

•             The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults.

Globally, many adolescents live in environments in which poverty, conflict, or abuse is common, placing them at risk for developing mental disorders or engaging in co-occurring risky behaviors such as psychoactive substance use and physical violence. These behaviours have implications for adolescent health and development and contribute to the disease burden in this age group.

Adolescence is also a time when chronic mental disorders may develop, which can place adolescents at further risk for unhealthy behaviors, injuries, and diseases and contribute to poor physical and mental health in later years.

Young people suffering from mental health problems have more difficulty forming interpersonal relationships, performing in school, and contributing productively in work environments. However, adolescence is also a time of rapid physical, social, and psychological development, and as a result, it offers multiple opportunities for health promotion and disease prevention.

To grow and develop in good health, adolescents need information, including age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education; opportunities to develop life skills; health services that are acceptable, equitable, appropriate, and effective; and safe and supportive environments. Expanding such opportunities is key to responding to adolescents’ specific needs and rights.

Adolescent mental health promotion and illness prevention aim to strengthen an individual’s capacity to regulate emotions, enhance alternatives to risk-taking behaviours, build resilience for difficult situations and adversities, and promote supportive social environments and social networks. Mental health and psychosocial interventions can be effective in improving the optimum well-being of our youths.

These interventions can provide foundational skills for the promotion of healthy behaviours and prevention of risky behaviours, such as violence (including bullying), tobacco use, and substance abuse, and can save our future collectively.

This multilevel approach to promote adolescent mental health, prevent mental illness, mitigate complications by early identification, and provision of prompt intervention and rehabilitation can be delivered through varied platforms such as; digital media, social care settings, clinics and hospitals, schools, the community, and varied strategies to reach adolescents, particularly the most vulnerable.

I hope today’s conversation has introduced you to adolescent mental health, next week we shall be discussing specific common mental health and behavioural problems that our adolescents often encounter in our society which may constitute a threat to our collective survival. Note:  If you have comments, questions and  contributions, please reach out to us on: +2348037004611 or email us at [email protected]

Can my young child develop mental disorder?

Dear Prof,

Good morning sir. Can young children have mental health disorders?  I noticed that my child is always sad and sometimes he will stop playing.

Kate, Lagos

Prof says,

Statistics have shown that about 20 percent of children and adolescents live with a mental disorder, which may begin in early childhood. But it’s important to note that Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder known as ADHD and behavioural disorders also fall into this category. Among other mental health problems that may affect children aged five and under are anxiety disorders, symptoms of depression and attachment disorder.

Generally, if the behaviour is overwhelming and persistent, this may indicate that something is wrong. If you find yourself overwhelmed by your child’s emotions or behaviour, it’s best to seek professional help.  This may be the case if, for example, your child is always sad, anxious or angry, often isolates himself, stops playing, barely sleeps, purposely hurts himself, has an intense fear of being away from you, is incapable of functioning in childcare because of his aggressiveness, and so forth.

Can parental separation affect child’s mental health?

Dear Prof,

Can parental separation affect a child’s mental health?

Rhoda, Ebonyi

Prof says,

Scientific studies have shown that divorce of parents increases the symptoms of anxiety and depression in a child. Even if this increase is only slight, it indicates that separation is a source of stress and sadness for young children. The more intense the conflict, the more harm it causes the child.