Around 20% of teenagers experience depression before adulthood. 25% suffer from anxiety. One in twelve have self harmed. And around 100 a minute take their own lives.
Mental health issues may occur for countless reasons, but no one can deny that there has been an increase in depression and anxiety in today’s youth. It’s guaranteed that in every one of your classes at school, there will be at least one individual who has experienced mental health problems. I believe a great deal of issues are caused by an increase in stress during the education period; exams are being made more frequent and increasingly difficult, and from the moment we begin school it’s drilled into us that the aim of education is to suceed with flying colours and have a sucessful career. Anything less than that ‘isn’t good enough’, so who can blame students for suffering from stress and anxiety as a result of this pressure. I believe mental health issues are also worsened by the stigma surrounding them. It’s still a subject that many are afraid to talk about, and feel they should be ashamed to talk about, particularly men. Unfortunately some depict it as a sign of weakness, rather than the actuality that it is chemical imbalance, stress or trauma, and therefore those suffering are too afraid to talk which worsens the issue. It saddens me that this is the case as mental health issues touch everyone somehow, and now I know how helpful it is to talk I would strongly encourage it to anyone experiencing emotion distress. Facts and figures about mental health issues in today’s youth are shocking, however it is hard to fully understand the reality of depression or anxiety unless you’ve lived with it, which sadly is a story I know all too well…
My elder brother suffers from anxiety, and I know mental illness is often genetic and therefore runs in families, however I’d say I was fairly happy until my later years of secondary school, besides issues at home followed by the death of my Nan. When I began my GCSE’s, the workload was over whelming and as someone who is incredibly conscientious about getting their work in on time, I felt constantly stressed. At this point I was also coming to terms with my sexuality with no support from anyone, which further worsened my mood. Plus like any teenager going through puberty I became increasingly aware of my apperance which led to obsession over it; I always thought I looked different to other girls at school, but now this became a massive problem for me.
Gradually my sleep worsened and my desire not to socialize lead to isolation, and eventually thoughts of self harm. Although I’d say my mood had lifted slightly at the end of my exams, my summer holidays last year was weeks of me sat at home with no desire to venture out, get a job, or do anything productive with my life, which of course brought me down even futher, not to mention the fact that my skin was terrible at this time so my self esteem was incredibly low. When I started college the workload was even more overwhelming and I was dealing with the heart break of being led on by a girl whom I liked. I was exhausted, depressed, and spend hours at a time lying in bed in tears. Eventually after opening up about suicidal thoughts to my councillor, I started taking anti-depressants.
Once I began taking medication I was determined to improve things, so last Christmas I got a part time job, began socializing more, and found a new girlfriend. This sounds all well and good however in reality these were just further distractions from my deteriorating mental health; socializing was just an effort to maintain friendships just so I wasn’t alone, and my girlfriend wasn’t particularly pleasant. Eventually I broke up with her, and was left feeling unsure what to do with myself. I remained in a bit of a numb state until towards summer, a friend asked about my mental health. I was unsure at first, but gradually began to open up to her, and another two very close friends, and this made the world of difference- I no longer felt like I had to socialize simply to prevent isolation; I felt I had friends who genuinely cared about me and my wellbeing. This was the boost I needed to do something for myself; once college ended for the summer I set up my blog. I’d always loved writing and had recently come to the conclusion that journalism would be my ideal career, so spending time writing on my blog was not only something to prevent me from being unproductive and slipping back into that vicious cycle, it was something I genuinely enjoyed. I began frequently exercising as well which I would highly recommend to anyon experiencing a low mood as although it may seem like a chore it makes you feel so much more lively, and is also a great way to just tune out from everything. I was incredibly nervous about recieving my AS Level results, fearing that due to my depression, and therefore lack of motivation to work, I hadn’t reached my targets; however when I recieved them and they were better than I could’ve hoped for I had a renewed self confidence in myself, and for the first time in ages I actually felt prepared for my education. Finally, I met my current girlfriend by chance, but it was the perfect end to this year; not only is she a beautiful and loving companion; she is a friend, and someone to open up to.
I believe I made an effort to help myself, which although easier said than done, was definitely worth it. The love and support of my friends and my girlfriend also means the world to me; humans are social beings- as independant as you may be, no one can be completely happy alone, particularly when dealing with a mental health issue.
It’s heartbreaking how many teenagers today suffer from mental health issues, and even more heartbreaking how many are told to ‘get over it’. I don’t know the solution, and mental health affects everyone in different ways, but if you can help yourself, or someone around you suffering, I urge you to do it, as all life is precious.
*Just a note, this post wasn’t easy to write so obviously quite a few details of my personal life have been left out. Also I’m not a professional, this was just my personal experience with mental health*