Adolescence can be an extremely difficult time for a lot of young people, and developing ways to prevent the onset of mental illness can help children and adolescents from experiencing episodes of depression or anxiety.
These issues affect the lives of a large number of young people in Australia. Research shows approximately half of all serious mental health issues begin before the age of 14, and 75% of problems emerge before 25, so a focus on prevention and treatment is paramount.
“The earlier we can start normalising mental illness and encouraging kids to talk about their emotions, the better the result will be in the long run. Unfortunately, there are some alarming statistics around how few teenagers are seeking help, so this is something we need to focus on,” says Hugh van Cuylenburg, founder of The Resilience Project. Mental health issues in young people dramatically lowers the quality of life for both those affected and their families. It also drastically affects and exacerbates existing physical and mental health issues, and increases the risk of suicide.
Conversely, good mental health is the foundation for the wellbeing and healthy development in every young person. This fosters not just an ability to overcome challenges, but also builds resilience, and helps shape strong peer relationships.
Nicci Tepper, MindStep Services Manager for Remedy Healthcare, says having a range of techniques to deal with mental health issues is imperative.
“I speak to many people about ways to manage anxiety and depression, there are many practical techniques that can be very helpful and people often say they wish they’d known about them earlier,” Nicci says
“Strategies that really work can be learned and are applicable to everyday situations, not just for those people with mental health concerns. Learning techniques to better manage times of stress and sadness is relevant for everyone and it is wonderful to start implementing these skills from a young age”.
Techniques to treat mental health
By having the right processes to deal with mental health challenges, adolescents can recognise when and how to utilise these methods to better cope with stressful situations. Employing practices such as anger and stress management assists in an effective and helpful way.
Being mindful of setting realistic goals and being fair with the expectations you put on yourself can really help with stress levels”, Nicci says. “Having problem-solving strategies up your sleeve to use in challenging situations can be helpful. Asking yourself ‘what’s in my control in this situation?’ is a great question to ask and helps you decide where to put your energy. It’s also really helpful to have some relaxation techniques to fall back on and a balance in life between the expectations other people put on you and the ones you might put on yourself.
“Knowing that things like social connections, getting good sleep, and looking after your exercise, these sorts of things can be just as, if not more important than meeting a deadline or getting a HD on that assignment. It’s about looking at that balance and making some of those non-academic parts of your life get the attention they deserve.”
Laying good foundations
Indicators of mental health issues, particularly among teens, may not be easily recognised by others. If left untreated, depression or anxiety can then lead to further problems during adulthood. However, if symptoms are detected quickly and treatment is administered, the potential for a successful outcome is quite high.
“It’s a foundation to grow from,” Nicci says. “Many people say their adolescent and teenage years are the hardest of their lives, so if you can go through that with some extra support, then that sets you in such good stead for adulthood.”
The Resilience Project is one such program that seeks to deliver emotionally engaging programs to schools, sports clubs and businesses, providing practical, evidence-based, positive mental health strategies to build resilience and happiness.
“We all know how important it is to put aside time each day to work on our physical health, and the same goes for our mental health,” Hugh says. “If we all spent even five to ten minutes a day practising simple but effective strategies such as gratitude, empathy and mindfulness, we would be in a much better headspace to deal with life’s inevitable ups and downs.”
The Resilience Project has delivered programs to more than 500 schools and has worked closely with elite sporting teams including the Australian cricket, netball and soccer teams, as well as NRL and AFL clubs.
For more information on The Resilience Project, head to theresilienceproject.com.au
Other resources and services around adolescent mental health can be found at:
Kids Helpline - 1800 551 800 or chat online
Youth Beyond Blue - 1300 224 636 or chat online
headspace - 1800 650 890 or chat online
SANE Australia - 1800 187 263