Child and Teen Mental Health Are in Crisis

In recent years, it has become painfully apparent that more children and teenagers are dealing with mental health issues. The severity of the problem cannot be overstated, from anxiety and sadness to the alarming rise in teen suicides and occurrences like school shootings. The origins of the issue are being intensively researched, and creative methods to solve it are being sought after by psychologists and other mental health specialists. It is crucial to investigate the underlying causes, the potential effects, and the actions that can be taken to address this developing concern because diagnoses of mental health disorders among young people are on the rise, in addition to related increases in self-harming behaviors. Undoubtedly, the prevailing mental health crisis affecting children and teenagers is a serious result of cultural, technological, and environmental changes that call for quick, comprehensive remedies.

The crisis affecting children’s and adolescents’ mental health has received much attention recently, with a noticeable increase in diagnoses, more cases of self-harm, and greater worries about suicides (Sanson et al., 2019). Numerous international and national health agencies, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have observed a significant rise in the prevalence of young people’s suicidal thoughts and behaviors (Fegert et al., 2020). Additionally, there has been a noticeable increase in teenage medical hospitalizations for self-harming and attempted suicide. A rise in clinical diagnoses is also shown in the number of prescriptions written for antidepressants and antianxiety drugs for people under 18 (Fegert et al., 2020). The findings of a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) add to the mounting evidence that the mental health of teenagers is in serious decline, with especially concerning statistics involving teen girls (Fegert et al., 2020). According to the survey, one in three high school girls in the United States have given suicide a serious thought, and 57% of teen girls said they felt depressed or hopeless all the time.

On the other hand, up from 13% in 2011, 14% of high school boys stated in the 2021 study that they had contemplated suicide (Fegert et al., 2020). The overall picture, however, is the same for all categories. Almost all mental health indicators among teenagers are deteriorating, which is true nationwide. For children of all races and in each year of high school, feelings of despair and hopelessness have worsened over the years.

No single factor can account for the growth in mental health problems among young people. However, it is apparent that the ongoing societal expectations around body image and the rising academic requirements also play an enormous role. The stress level in the world has increased. Alternatively, how children view their surroundings may be stressing them off excessively (Sanson et al., 2019). Teenagers’ worries about gun violence, the impact of climate change, and the political atmosphere have grown more intense over the past decade (Fegert et al., 2020). Young people who experience more stress also experience more sadness. Girls are more conditioned than boys to deal with their feelings of discomfort, which causes them to become depressed or worried. When attending class and doing well on examinations was sufficient in the long past. Today’s youngsters are expected to thrive on standardized assessments, consistently earn excellent marks, and be at the top of their grade level. Burnout, a state of emotional, bodily, and mental tiredness, can be brought on by the constant pressure to accomplish more (Sanson et al., 2019). This is frequently accompanied by self-doubt, which can result in feelings of anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. Peer comparisons, especially in the digital era, significantly influence one’s body image. Many young people believe that how they look determines how valuable they are. Feelings of inadequacy and severe despair might result from being unable to live up to society’s expectations. Therefore, it is critical to identify and deal with these causes of stress (Sanson et al., 2019). To foster circumstances where children can flourish intellectually, not simply academically or aesthetically, society, educational institutions, and families must collaborate.

The emergence of the online world has fundamentally changed how society interacts, is entertained, and gathers information. Instant connectivity has many advantages, but it also has substantial disadvantages, particularly for young people with impressionable minds. The prevalence of internet use and messaging apps, along with the negative aspects of online engagement, like cyberbullying, has greatly impacted mental health (Nakshine et al., 2022). The constant availability of social media and instant messaging in the modern era has made people feel increasingly isolated, anxious, and insecure (Ding & Li, 2023). Cyberbullying has emerged due to the anonymity of online contacts, leaving severe psychological trauma. Teenagers, and adolescent girls specifically, are unusually sensitive to the opinions of friends, teachers, and the online community, which may be one factor. This acute peer sensitivity appears to be hijacked by social media, which fuels obsessive thoughts about popularity and physical appearance (Nakshine et al., 2022). Not only does social media increase anxiety, but it also makes it more difficult for today’s youth to handle the difficulties associated with growing up. Observing others participating in different hobbies might make people anxious because they worry about missing out on experiences or falling out of social circles (Nakshine et al., 2022). Ironically, although built for interaction, digital platforms can occasionally make people feel more alone. Face-to-face encounters with real people, essential for emotional well-being, cannot entirely be replaced by virtual interactions (Ding & Li, 2023). Cyberbullying negatively impacts mental health in significant ways. Victims frequently struggle with significant anxiety and sadness; in the worst situations, they might even consider suicide. Public humiliation and always being watched or assessed may be devastating. Indeed, it will take a team effort to solve these problems (Ding & Li, 2023). Collaboration between parents, teachers, and tech businesses is necessary to promote digital literacy, social media behavior, and psychological wellness awareness.

Adolescence is always a difficult stage of life, characterized by mood swings, identity issues, and a desire for independence. Therefore, some opponents argue that there is no true crisis and that young people’s rising mental health concerns manifest ordinary teen discontent. They emphasize that while the increased numbers of mental health illnesses signal a more widespread issue, the present generation is more outspoken about teenage unhappiness (Aguirre Velasco et al., 2020). A different viewpoint is the increased knowledge of mental health, where people tend to accuse experts of overdiagnosing disorders that may be healthy. Nevertheless, the apparent rise in suicidal thoughts and behaviors cannot be due to overdiagnosis. Another counterargument is that social media’s importance has been overstated and that it would be overreaching to blame social media and digital platforms for the current mental health epidemic. These sites can also offer community, knowledge, and assistance. However, even though the idea that parents and teachers should collaborate to advance a child’s well-being is advantageous, some opponents and counterarguments contend that doing so can infringe on a child’s privacy and cause them to feel excessively monitored and manipulated (Aguirre Velasco et al., 2020).

As a consequence, trust concerns arise, potentially harming relationships. There may also be questions about the boundaries between parents’ and instructors’ responsibilities. Teachers risk stepping outside of their scope of practice if they become overly involved in a student’s personal affairs (Maclean & Law, 2022). Conflicts may arise when teachers and parents hold opposing opinions about what is best for a child’s welfare (Dodd et al., 2022). These differences could perplex the youngster or prevent useful interventions. Furthermore, collaborative treatments demand significant time, money, and work. Such assets are unavailable to all families or schools, resulting in unequal mental health care access.

The mental health crisis among children and teens is a growing concern that calls for urgent and collaborative action. A coordinated approach involving schools, families, medical specialists, and authorities is necessary to address this issue (Aguirre Velasco et al., 2020). Prioritizing mental health, incorporating wellness curricula and counseling services, and creating settings that value well-being are essential for schools—utilizing technology to provide helpful apps, virtual peer groups, and teletherapy, among other mental health options. Numerous public health initiatives de-stigmatize mental health conditions and make mental health resources available. Moreover, emphasizing the significance of obtaining assistance could also be extremely important.

Furthermore, to address the problem, psychologists, educators, parents, and technology developers collaborate to find an effective solution. Parents, teachers, and even children receive education from psychologists on the early warning signs and symptoms of mental health problems (Babore et al., 2023). Children spend most of their time at school with the teacher, so one would anticipate that they would form a close bond in this situation. Because this will help the instructor cope with each unique child, parents should help the teachers identify their child’s strengths and shortcomings (Maclean & Law, 2022). Parents should ensure their home is peaceful since children should not be exposed to violent or argumentative situations in front of them because these situations can be traumatic.

Educational psychologists can collaborate with teachers to create campaigns to combat bullying and social and emotional learning programs (Dodd et al., 2022). Others are collaborating with software developers to build mobile apps for children and teenagers that will aid in managing their mental health. These apps can provide services, including self-guided treatment, mindfulness, and meditation activities, stress-reduction advice, and even channels for individuals to interact with trained mental health professionals (Butler et al., 2022). Additionally, psychologists have created programs to assist parents in promoting their children’s mental health (Babore et al., 2023). These programs teach how to foster loving situations, enhance communication, control stress, and deal with mental health difficulties.

Ultimately, the child and teen mental health epidemic is not an overnight problem but also not an unsolvable one. A multifaceted strategy involving families, health care providers, and educators can make significant progress in resolving this issue and ensuring that the young people, who are society’s future, are mentally resilient and mentally healthy. While some believe that mental health services are insignificant, should not be made widely available, or be offered in schools, free mental health services can aid people in need and raise awareness of the problems. Collaboration between parents and teachers is beneficial, but it should be done carefully and with respect for the child’s autonomy, cultural variety, and personal limits.

References

Aguirre Velasco, A., Cruz, I. S. S., Billings, J., Jimenez, M., & Rowe, S. (2020). What are the barriers, facilitators, and interventions targeting help-seeking behaviors for common mental health problems in adolescents? A systematic review. BMC Psychiatry20(1), 1-22. https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-020-02659-0

Babore, A., Trumello, C., Lombardi, L., Candelori, C., Chirumbolo, A., Cattelino, E., … & Morelli, M. (2023). Mothers’ and children’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown: The mediating role of parenting stress. Child Psychiatry & Human Development54(1), 134-146. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10578-021-01230-6

Butler, N., Quigg, Z., Bates, R., Jones, L., Ashworth, E., Gowland, S., & Jones, M. (2022). The contributing role of family, school, and peer supportive relationships in protecting the mental well-being of children and adolescents. School Mental Health14(3), 776–788. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12310-022-09502-9

Ding, K., & Li, H. (2023). Digital Addiction Intervention for Children and Adolescents: A Scoping Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health20(6), 4777. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph20064777

Dodd, H. F., Nesbit, R. J., & FitzGibbon, L. (2022). Child’s play: Examining the association between playing time and child mental health. Child Psychiatry & Human Development, pp. 1–9. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10578-022-01363-2

Fegert, J. M., Vitiello, B., Plener, P. L., & Clemens, V. (2020). Challenges and burden of the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic for child and adolescent mental health: A narrative review highlighting clinical and research needs in the acute phase and the long return to normality. Child and adolescent psychiatry and mental health14, 1-11. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s13034-020-00329-3

Maclean, L., & Law, J. M. (2022). Supporting primary school students’ mental health needs: Teachers’ perceptions of roles, barriers, and abilities. Psychology in the Schools59(11), 2359–2377. https://doi.org/10.1002/pits.22648

Nakshine, V. S., Thute, P., Khatib, M. N., & Sarkar, B. (2022). Increased screen time as a cause of declining physical, psychological health, and sleep patterns: a literary review. Cureus14(10). doi: 10.7759/curious.30051

Sanson, A. V., Van Hoorn, J., & Burke, S. E. (2019). Responding to the impacts of the climate crisis on children and youth. Child Development Perspectives13(4), 201-207. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdep.12342

Author: Jeffery Allen
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