As parents, we all want our children to grow into healthy, balanced, well-adjusted young adults living their best lives, happy and fulfilled. But is that even possible in the world we live in today?
Why now more than ever has mental health issues among youth and young adults become an epidemic?
I’m going to break down 3 challenges youth face today that in my opinion are contributing factors leading to mental health among these generations.
It’s no surprise when children are exposed to abuse, trauma, poverty or suffer the loss of an important person at a young age (such as a parent) this could very likely lead to mental health experiences in adolescence and into adulthood. Not only that, if they are born to parents who suffer from a mental health illness, the odds have now increased that we too will inherit it.
Challenges I believe impact our youth and young adults today are really quite simple. We’ve all heard of them and our kids are living them. They’re essentially fighting battles they don’t even know they’re in and the harsh reality is many of them will experience anxiety and depression as a result.
Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health disorders among youth and young adults.
WORLD OF TECHNOLOGY | IS IT A CATCH 22?
With technology developing at an alarming rate, if youth are not exposed to it and know how to live in the world of technology they will fall behind. In most cases the iPad, cellphones, and computers are all introduced to children at a very young age, most likely they will have had exposure well before they even enter elementary school.
By the time youth reach high school, there had better be a computer/laptop in the home and they had better be proficient in typing. Cursive writing no longer matters, spell check will fix spelling errors and socialization now takes place all online via texting or social media.
Communication is done with electronic devices and the lack of face-to-face connection is having a negative impact on young people’s lives.
The significant amount of time spent online leads to a lack of sleep in youth which can result in mood swings, anger, irritability, confused thinking and isolation which can also lead to anxiety and depression.
We can’t ignore or avoid the use of technology and as much as we want to protect our young people from the negative impact of it, sheltering them from the use of it could be holding them back from keeping up with their generational culture therefore leading to social exclusion, simply put it’s a catch 22.
SOCIAL MEDIA | NEGATIVE IMPACTS OUTWEIGH POSITIVE
Number 2 on my list is social media, while there may be some benefits to social media, the negatives, in my opinion, outweigh way the positives.
Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter are just a few social media platforms which I’m sure we’ve all heard of or have accounts set up on, myself included. As a parent, I find that I have to keep up with the newest social media trend in order to keep an eye on my 15yr old.
Being involved on social media opens up the door for teens and young adults to experience cyber-bullying, trolls, toxic comparisons, sleep deprivation and less frequent face-to-face contact with people.
Too much time scrolling through social media leads to depression and anxiety, studies have concluded this. Let’s break down some of the destructive factors associated with social media.
THE NEED FOR ACCEPTANCE: The need to gain ‘likes’ on social media adds pressure to teens, they may be apt to alter their appearance, engage in risky behaviors or challenges in order to achieve acceptance.
UNHEALTHY COMPARISONS: By constantly viewing the highlights of the lives of peers posted on social media teens can find themselves often comparing their lives to their peers and let’s face it, it’s difficult to avoid this. Everything from physical appearance to life circumstances is seen as successes or failures under a microscope on social media.
MINIMAL FACE TIME: Human connection is a powerful tool that builds skills that last a lifetime. When teens spend more and more time online rather than in person it’s difficult to build empathy and compassion.
CYBER-BULLING: Cyber-bullying is associated with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. Females are more prone to these symptoms however males are not exempt.
As parents, our only fight against social media and the impact it has on our children is to build them up, educate them and encourage face-to-face time rather than online communication most of the time.
We can lead by example and disconnect frequently ourselves to spend quality time communicating face to face with family and friends.
PARENTING WITH A PURPOSE | WHAT’S BEST FOR OUR YOUTH MAY NOT MAKE US FEEL GOOD
Let’s look at number 3 on my list. We want to protect our kids and keep them safe at all cost, and that’s our job, but could the way we parent our children be having an impact on their mental health and well being?
I’m guilty of it too, wanting to give my children everything I didn’t have growing up, wanting to protect them from every horrible experience and feeling I encountered as a child and young adult. As parents, it’s like we’re hard-wired to do so. But let’s stop and think about this for a minute, those hard times and difficult experiences ultimately shaped the people who we have become today.
Parents who cushion every aspect of their kid’s lives could be setting them up for failure when harsh reality sets in when they become young adults. Young children, teens, and young adults need to fall, they need to fail and they need to hurt. We need to be there for them during these times, but we need to not take those learning moments away from them.
Having high expectations for our children can also contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Our kids naturally want to please their parents but when the expectations are high and kids find it difficult to meet them, this can ultimately lead to feelings of failure or not being good enough.
As parents we need to not set the bar too high, let’s face it, if they grow up healthy, happy and self-sufficient we ultimately did our job and that’s all we should be expecting of them. This in my books is spells success.
YOUTH CHALLENGES| WHAT’S A PARENT TO DO?
There are many contributing factors that come into play when it comes to youth mental health, I’ve chosen to focus on the 3 contributing challenges that in my opinion are impacting young people’s overall mental health and well being today.
If you believe your teen or young adult is suffering from anxiety or depression check out online counseling options, or better yet, have them check it out. Youth and young adults today access the internet for pretty much any service they need, this is one more avenue that can be taken to access supports to assist with achieving overall wellness.
Ensuring our youth are educated in using technology responsibly and encouraging more face-to-face time with family and peers is key in ensuring they build empathy and compassion which is crucial to building human connection.
Encouraging our youth to find a balance between human connection and technology can help to minimize mental health experiences they may face.
While I have based my opinion on studies completed, these three factors are my opinion only and are not a result of one study as a whole.
Why do you think mental health is becoming more prevalent in our youth today. What tips would you offer parents to help youth balance technology and face-to-face time? Do you try to give your children everything you didn’t have as a child?