Mental health is something that includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being which affects how we think, feel and act. World Health Organization (WHO) has conceptualised mental health as— a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can contribute to his or her community. Thus, mental health is constantly affecting our decision-making and problem-solving activities which is crucial for teenagers as they keep ageing.
Why do you think young people in today’s generation are facing severe depression, excessive stress, fatigue, and anxiety? Well, it is definitely because of poor mental health that has been supported by life events, genetics, and biochemical imbalances.
Effects on teenagers
As teenagers experience rapid physical, emotional and cognitive changes, it is very harmful for them to have a poor mental health condition as it can affect their overall growth and development. If we take a look at the increasing self-harm, depression and suicide cases of such groups all over the world due to poor mental health, we will notice a very large number.
According to data published by the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division (EDCD), suicide rates have increased by a staggering 72 per cent over the decade, which has emerged as a pressing concern not only in Nepal but also throughout the world.
If we dig deeper and look for the causes, we will find academic pressure, family issues, culture, environment, and social media playing a very important role. In countries like Nepal, where the parents of a child set so many expectations and standards, the youngsters become victims of mental pressure causing depression which leads to suicide and self-harm cases.
The victims are mostly the children who fall under the pressure of getting good grades in SEE or +2 examinations. Teenagers who are highly exposed to social media often become victims of cyberbullying, irregular sleep schedules, and constant health problems, social comparisons leading to poor mental well-being and isolation from the real world.
Chronically youngsters think that everything they see on social media is real and important which makes them create an imaginary world with false understandings causing them to mess up their thinking power. As one is growing, one is always somehow involved in a particular peer group in which one might not fit in. With the desire to fit in and meet the expectations of the group, one might get involved in risky activities that may be out of one’s comfort zone which may harm self-identity and mental health overall.
Have you had any traumatic events? And does it still haunt you to this day? I would like you to think about this and analyse to what extent those traumas have affected your mental health.
Now, the reason for doing this is because there have been many cases that show us that the traumas that we go through during our childhood significantly affect our mental health, especially when we are going through puberty. After all, that is when we start to become a little more mature and understand things properly.
Teenagers who have had a tough childhood suffer through a lot of mental disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder (BPD), substance use disorders and depression.
This constantly affects their everyday life, especially their education and relationship with their body, family and society. So, it is really important for youngsters to eventually get through and forget those traumatic experiences. Focusing more on what affects mental health, I think substance abuse also plays a serious role.
Nowadays, around the world, the number of young people falling into addiction to substances like alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and nicotine is more than adults. As they fall into it more, they do not realise how harshly it is affecting their mental health, but they think that it is helping them to relax, forget their problems, escape from reality and be stress-free.
Substance abuse can cause disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) which leads to health complications, poor memory and concentration, self-harm, academic declines, and poor social relationships.
Teenagers are the future human resources of a community, society, nation and the whole world and it is sad to know that so many of them have to struggle daily because they have a very poor lifestyle which is directly affecting their mental health.
Understanding mental health
It is important to have healthy mental health because one can contribute not only to their welfare but also to the welfare of the people around them. A mentally healthy teenager prioritises self-care, a positive environment, healthy lifestyle which leads to a safe and sound living standard as well as social skills development.
They can also do well in their education with full motivation, enthusiasm, and encouragement that can build a good foundation for their future success. A person with a strong and positive mentality is always open to being a supportive friend, a caring family member and a helpful and responsible citizen of the nation.
So how can we help unaware teenagers be aware of the role and importance of mental health in their lives? Firstly, spreading awareness about mental health topics is very important as it will help them know about mental problems and disorders, the importance of mental health education, counselling, interaction, and community involvement which can directly help in shaping good mental health.
It is also very important to create an open communication environment among teenagers so that they can feel comfortable talking about their feelings and problems with the people they trust.
In my opinion, a supportive environment plays a very important role in helping the mentality of a teenager as it can foster supportive relationships and create a foundation where the youngsters can openly express their problems and what has been causing them.
If we are close to one of our young family members or friends who are mentally unstable, we can help them by accessing counselling services, screening programs, peer support programs, stress management programs, and medical checkups.
It is also very important to promote body positivity and eradicate unrealistic beauty standards to support a healthy body image causing no mental stress and anxiety. Cyberbullying, online threats and unsafe internet activities should be monitored and stopped as much as possible to promote healthy mental health while using online technology.
So, what has Nepal done to help the mental health of teenagers?
Nepal is a developing country, and it has been trying its best to support teenagers’ mental as well as physical health. Nepal has developed some community-based initiatives to promote mental health awareness and healthy relationships. Similarly, Nepal established Transcultural Psychosocial Organization Nepal (TPO Nepal) in 2005 to promote the psychosocial well-being and mental health of youngsters and their families in conflict-affected and other vulnerable communities.
Along with this, individuals with firsthand experience established a non-governmental organisation KOSHISH in 2008 to ensure the inclusive participation of people with mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities.
Similarly, Nepal has also established organisations like the Centre for Mental Health and Counseling-Nepal (CMC-Nepal), Health Foundation Nepal, Healing Together Nepal, Sambhavya Foundation, Chhahari Nepal for Mental Health, CPH Nepal, etc to help the mental health of people around Nepal.
I would like to encourage everyone to seek help from their close ones if they ever have to go through mental problems and stress. It is always better to speak for help than to stay quiet. I would also encourage everyone to always observe, listen, help, support and try to communicate with people with mental problems as it is always good to help someone and be there for them rather than letting them be alone.
Encourage such people to reach out to a mental health professional or a helpline and always offer your full-time support. If you are going through a bad time, know that you are not alone and you matter to your family, friends and close ones. Never hesitate to seek help and talk to someone who you trust.
If you or your and any close ones ever had suicidal and self-harm thoughts or even attempted them, you can always contact and call the following numbers: Suicide Helpline: 1166; Nepal Police: 100; and Ambulance: 102.