Since the year 1992, every year October 10 is being celebrated as World Mental Health Day. This is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. Today, thousands of people are being affected by “Mental illness” and still, there is not enough awareness regarding this issue. Due to which, the stigma linked with Mental illness is manifesting in our society. The prime agenda behind celebrating this annual awareness program is to bring attention to mental illness, and its major effects on peoples’ lives worldwide. This year’s World Mental Health Day was celebrated with the theme “Young people and Mental Health in a changing world”. The goal was to highlight the issue of depression among adolescents and young adults and how it is increasing rapidly.
Mental health is a positive concept related to the individual’s social, emotional and psychological well being. The concept of mental health is culturally defined but generally relates to the enjoyment of life, ability to cope with daily stress, sorrows and sadness, the fulfilment of goals and a sense of connection with others (Hinshaw, S.P.,2005). Therefore, mental health is a very important aspect of an individual’s well being, health and life.
But the question arises “What if a person is not mentally healthy?’’. A mentally unhealthy person may have a range of conditions starting from anxiety, panic attack to depression. Though all the demographic groups of our society are affected by depression it is most common and prevalent among adolescents.
Stage of adolescence and the initiation of Depression
Adolescence is a period of changed attitude and behaviour. Psychologically, it is that period of life when an individual becomes integrated into the society of adults, the age when the child no longer feels that he or she is below the level of his/her elders but equal at least in terms of their rights. It is a period of rapid change and time of searching for personal identity (Chandola, R.,2016).
The stage of adolescence is called the period of “storm and stress”(G.Stanley Hall,1904). During this stage, a teenager faces many psychological problems like stress, anxiety, aggression, undesirable consequences and even depression and frustration. Thus, the stage of adolescence has become a period of initiation of depression and needs special attention from parents and teachers. But the issue is neglected even after the growing cases of depression among adolescents and needs an increased sense of enlightenment and awareness among society.
Why awareness is necessary regarding teenage depression?
In the era of excessive use of smartphones and less communication among neighbours, parents and their children, people are becoming more and more insensitive about other peoples’ emotions. Consequently, unrecognized cases increase and in extreme cases, teenage depression transforms itself into a fatal form. Awareness regarding depression in an adolescent is called for as it is often unrecognized and untreated. This is due to the inability to differentiate between behavioural changes associated with hormonal changes and changes linked with depression. About 20% of all adolescents are affected by mental illness and show impaired social development (Crimson Publishers). Also, a report by the World Health organization (WHO) identified that that one in every five adolescent has depression.
According to the 'Mental Health Status of Adolescents in South-East Asia: Evidence for Action', a report published by WHO in April 2017, 5.8% of the mental -health affected population of India were in the age group of 13-15 years. The report suggested that about 25% of adolescents in the country reported being depressed for 2 weeks or more in a row and by 2020 depression will be the second most common mental health problem among teenagers. The percentage of adolescents who reported being in anxiety was 8%.
The knowledge regarding early signs and symptoms can go a long way in early prevention and cure of depression amid teenagers. The symptoms analogous to teenage depression can be detected by correlating with the changes in daily life activities. Perceiving the signs and spreading awareness regarding them can also highlight the issue of depressive disorder frequency in adolescents. Many suicide cases among teenagers have been reported due to depression. Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide and the third leading cause of death among teenagers. As a result of the negligence of indications linked with depressive disorder, as many as 8.3% of adolescents suffer from depression for at least a year at a time, compared to about 5.3% of the general population.
Causes and Effects of Teenage depression
The reasons associated with adolescent depression result from causes like personal conflicts either with parents or friends, grief or guilt from the death or loss of a loved one, stress like experiences such as financial loss or divorce between parents. Sometimes, being socially isolated from their nearby environment and difficulty in establishing adolescent’s own identity may also cause a sense of low self-esteem. According to a report published by NDTV India, thepercentage of adolescents who felt lonely most of the times was 8% and 10% of the surveyed students had no friends. The report also suggested that bullying in school and by peers increased mental health problems and substance abuse in them.
The aftereffects of causes related with depressive disorder are indecisive nature, lack of interest in their family, unable to concentrate in studies, inability to demonstrate affection for their loved ones, tendency to avoid friends and social gatherings and so on. These are some of the common symptoms but the severe ones may lead to other mental illnesses such as eating disorders like ‘Anorexia’ and ‘Bulimia’. The most adverse consequence is to attempt/commit suicide.
Solutions to hinder the magnification of depression among adolescents
In March 2017, PM Narendra Modi had addressed mental health issues among adolescents in 'Mann ki Baat'. Talking about the taboo surrounding mental health issues, he had said, "The problem is that we are unable to fully comprehend it even amongst those around us, and perhaps we also hesitate to talk about it openly, with our family and friends. The person suffering from depression too doesn't speak out himself as he feels a sense of shame about it."He stressed that depression needs to be talked about and said, "There is a need to create a psychologically conducive environment to begin with. The first mantra is the expression of depression instead of its suppression."
While there is certainly some awareness about mental health issues in the country now, the measures to combat it in students is still lacking. Though there is no set measure to combat depression, anxiety and other such mental health issues, one thing which can be achieved is creating a safe environment for children in school and at home. Schools can regularly conduct workshops, seminars and one-on-one counselling sessions for students. A Guidance-Counselor at every school can be a valuable addition for students fighting anxiety, depression or any other mental health issue.
Adolescence is a delicate time period which is needed to be handled carefully. Adolescents’ voices need to be heard by everyone. “Mental health promotion” and “Mental disorder prevention” among adolescents need to shift its focus. The change needed is to move from inherited patterns of institutionalization and medicalization to modern public health approaches based on the involvement of adolescents, youth, parents and communities. Support from peers, parents and teachers can go a long way to prevent a teenager from depressive disorders and other effects related to it.
 Through, 'Mann Ki Baat', Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi interacts with people across the country on a range of important subjects.
Ronad, V. Susheelkumar (2017). Child and Adolescent mental health status in the Indian Context.India: Dharwad Institute of Mental health and Neurosciences. Retrieved fromhttps://crimsonpublishers.com/rmes/pdf/RMES.000548.pdf
Singh, A. (2017, October 10). Mental health status among adolescents in India and possible solutions. NDTV. Retrieved from https://www.ndtv.com/education/mental-health-status-among-adolescents-in-india-possible-solutions-1761025
Teen depression awareness. (2015, May 5). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/sKlEPizH7vE
Chandola, R. (2016). Education: Personality & Mental Health. (The International Journal of Indian Psychology, Vol.4, pp. 157-165 )
Hinshaw, S., P. (2005). The Stigmatization of Mental Illness in Children and Parents: Developmental Issues, Family Concerns, and Research Needs". (Journal of ChildPsychology and Psychiatry,pp. 714-34.)
Sankar R, Wani A, Indumathi R (2017), Mental Health among Adolescents, (International Journal of Indian Psychology, Vol. 4, pp.15-21). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317821664_Mental_Health_among_Adolescents
World Mental Health Day (2018). Retrieved from the World Health Organization website:http://www.who.int/mental_health/world-mental-health-day/2018/en/
Image Courtesy: Cadabams
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