Mental Health — The Elephant in the Room
06 de October de 2022
06 de October de 2022
October 10 is International Mental Health Day and, in spite of the progress we’ve made in recent years, there’s still a long way to go, especially among the youngest sector of society.
The pandemic produced an increase in mental health issues in a great part of the population. However, it also accelerated the awareness process and increased the resources devoted to the prevention and care of mental wellbeing.
According to a study carried out by the WHO in 2019, almost 14% of the world population who suffered from some sort of mental problem or disorder were teenagers. Alarming numbers given that, as of today, it’s even more: 1 out of 7 teenagers have mental health problems related to anxiety, depression or behavioural disorders.
Numbers are even worse after they come of legal age. The World Health Organisation published that almost 60% of suicides are committed before the age of 50, increasing by 25% after the pandemic, after which the numbers became much more alarming.
With these numbers at hand, some questions come to mind. Can we tell if someone in our work or personal circle is suffering from a mental health problem? Or whether we do? Can we prevent this trend through education? Is there something we could do to improve our mental health?
Education and Prevention — Our Best Tools
Mental health is an enormous challenge we face as a society. The key lies in prevention and awareness. For this, it’s important to inform, educate and activate the necessary resources for support. It’s crucial that we can access information and receive the necessary support for our mental health from an early age.
According to the last Youth Barometer on health and wellbeing from 2021, more than half of the people between 15 and 29 years old think they’ve experienced mental health problems — and half of them didn’t ask for help.
Why is it that we don’t ask for help? The study showed that 40% didn’t do it because professional psychological help was expensive, while 50% didn’t see it as a serious problem or thought they could fix it on their own. Other reasons included being ashamed or not wanting to express feelings.
Schools and universities must prioritise the implementation of programmes that foster mental health and have health experts to guide their students.
These programmes must be backed by education through content, talks and resources around psychological hardship, its causes and consequences. In this way, they will be able to recognise symptoms and detect if a person of their circle may need assistance.
Programmes on mental health education and awareness must train students and professors, so they can become prescribers and create a safe environment and a wide support network.
Learning to Recognise the Most Frequent Problems
Every human being can suffer from mental health problems or disorders; what matters is knowing how to recognise that it is happening.
Psychological difficulties don’t discriminate by age. A student can suffer from stress caused by academic pressure, or pressure that comes from their family or other activities, just like an executive with 10 years of experience and an important position and lots of responsibilities.
So, which are the main mental illnesses?
Stress: Being in a hurry, having too much pressure or a hectic pace are some of the factors that increase these numbers, also in the younger population. There are vital factors and certain personality traits that can produce a higher vulnerability in certain people.
Anxiety: Anxiety is one of the most frequent problems. It’s known for causing a feeling of shortness of breath, accelerated heartbeat or a mind speeding more than it should. Like stress, there are conditions that make some people more susceptible.
Pessimism and Despair: The pandemic has exacerbated a generalised feeling of pessimism about the future. Apathy, incapacity and sadness came along. Despair is especially present in teenagers, since it’s a part of life full of crises and changes that bring a great variation of moods.
Panic: Panic attacks are sudden episodes of intense fear or anxiety even when there’s no threat present. These episodes are usually periodic and recurrent, which can end up in a negative loop of being afraid of the panic caused by the episode itself. In general, panic attacks are preceded by anxiety.
Phobies: Phobies are an anxiety disorder caused by extreme and disproportionate fear of situations, objects or even beings.
Depression: The term that’s most related to mental health problems. Depression causes a lowered mood and a feeling of constant sadness.
It’s important to notice that there’s also invisible depression or hidden depression. People who suffer from this refuse to recognise or accept that they suffer from it and try to seem optimistic in the eyes of others or even themselves. They feel embarrassed about it or afraid to recognise what they are going through.
What Can Be Done to Take Care of Our Mental Health?
Mental health is closely related to physical health, so keeping a balance between them is crucial. Having good habits isn’t a guarantee when it comes to mental illnesses, since there are social, economic, genetic and vital factors that influence our mood. However, keeping good habits is a great way to prevent them since they help overcome difficult situations and reduce the magnitude of the afflictions.