May is National Mental Health Month and we’re here at Peek Counseling to spread the good word so that we can all help reduce the increasing numbers of those suffering with major depression, anxiety, PTSD, and the many other mental health challenges that so many of us have, or know someone who does. Together, we can spread positivity and love to ourselves, our friends and family, and all of humankind.
How Did May Become Mental Health Month?
In reality, every month should be Mental Health Month, but May is officially designated every year and has been since 1949. Surprised? You may be even more surprised to hear that the movement had its roots beginning in 1909 with the foundation of Mental Health America when Clifford W. Beers, a Yale Graduate, newly minted Wall Street financier, and mental health advocate, struggled with his own illness.
Following the tragic death of his brother, Beers suffered from his first manic-depressive episode, now commonly called bipolar disorder. He tried to end his life by jumping from a three story window. Unsuccessful, he lived, but only to be placed in state psychiatric hospitals for the next three years. Within these institutions, Beers discovered the inhumane treatment that psychiatric patients were placed under. He authored the autobiography, A Mind that Found Itself, based on his dedication to unveiling the light on mental illness and pioneering the universal belief that all diseases, whether physical or mental, should receive honorable and conscientious treatment.
From his experiences, and with the help of both philosopher William James and psychologist Adolf Meyer, the National Institute for Mental Hygiene was founded. This later was known as the National Mental Health Institute, and finally today, the institute is referred to as Mental Health America.
Mental Health Issues Affect Teens and Young Adults According to Latest Statistics
Mental Health Month is designed to bring awareness and end stigma for “invisible” mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, postpartum depression, schizophrenia, post traumatic stress disorder, dissociative disorder, phobias and the many gray areas in between. For teens and young adults, the most common mental illnesses are typically anxiety and depression.
Teens and young adults are at a disadvantage when it comes to mental health because their brains are literally still developing. In fact, “the brain reaches its adult size in boys around age 11 and in girls around age 14,” according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Yet, it doesn’t mean that the brain is done maturing. That takes several more years as the prefrontal cortex finish developing.
In a 2018 Blue Cross, Blue Shield report on teen depression, “diagnoses of major depression has risen dramatically” in the past five years and even more so for millennials and adolescents. Since 2013 until the date of the study, diagnoses of major depression for millenials is up by 47%, and for adolescents, that rate is up by 47% for boys and 65% for girls.
What Kind of Mental Health Challenges Affect Teens and Young Adults?
Nearly every kind. Since their brains are still developing and they are going through one of the most difficult transitions in life (from child to adult), nearly every day can be anxiety-ridden. With social media, school pressure, the pressure to know “what you’re going to be when you grow up”, dating, failures, bullying and finding out how unfair the “real world” is, being a teen and young adult is extremely challenging without any mental health issues at all.
Depression and anxiety can impact a teen and young adult’s overall success by limiting their thinking and causing them to be afraid to try new things, meet new people, or seek out counseling when they truly need it. Counseling services are a good first place to start if your teen or the young adult in your life (or you!), is having trouble with positive mental health.
A Personal Story of Depression and Mental Health
VIDEO: “Kevin Breel’s honest teen depression Ted Talk goes viral.”
How to Help Teens and Young Adults When They Are Struggling With Mental Health
Listen. And then? Do some more listening. Pay attention to their body language. Are they constantly late everywhere they go? Are they having trouble getting up in the morning? Do you hear from them less and less and less? Do they seem apathetic? Are they not taking care of their physical health and appearance? Do they say they “wish they were never born?” Are they using drugs or cutting or not eating or eating and hiding? Are they just not themselves? It could be depression.
If you are the parent, friend, or loved one of a teen or young adult with major anxiety or depression, it can feel hopeless and helpless. YOU see the beautiful person they are inside, but they can’t see anything besides their own pain and struggles. There are many ways to help, the first being finding a trusted counselor to speak with. They can confidentially listen to everything that’s going on, offering a supportive ear and place to go to feel like there maybe is some hope. Other things? A good diet. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables, smoothies, green drinks, and lots of hydration will help the body process negativity just a tad better. And, sunshine. Any chance to get outside will do wonders for the mind. More ideas… puppies? Do you have a friend with a dog that can come over? Can you go to the shelter and play with dogs for a little while? Any self-care routine or connection, coupled with counseling and good health, can start the journey towards mental wellness, from mental illness.
Signs of Suicide Awareness and Ideas for Prevention
When things get really, really dark, it’s important to take action to prevent suicide. Suicide is either a quick or long decision, but it’s one you can’t take back. If your teen or a young adult has been mentioning not being around, not caring about the future, giving away their things or has showed signs of procuring pills, a weapon, or other tools to commit suicide, get help immediately. You can call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 any time of the day and night. Alessia Cara and Logic produced this song in 2017, and it still applies:
Things will get better. Help is here for you. Counseling is a way to release some negative feelings and feel safe. Getting the emotions of life out of you so that they don’t stew inside you, causing your illness and pain, is the first place to start. For parents, having a non-judgmental, supportive home is the best thing you can do.
Give your teen space, yet let them know they can come to you. Get them a counseling appointment. Go exercise with them and have healthy food in the house. Give them a journal. Find help, call, ask, yell… whatever you have to do, to get them help. And never ever sweep it under the rug. Life is hard! Growing up is hard! Mental illness is real and we need to take better care of each other to reduce the alarming numbers and statistics.
Celebrate May as Mental Health Month by spreading kindness and patience, helping each other, and taking care of your own mental health too. When we take care of ourselves, it spreads. Just like a smile. And, let’s share more of those while we’re at it too!
For more information about Peek Counseling, or to schedule an appointment, click here to contact me about a complimentary consultation. My door is always open. ~ Katie
Mental Health America, “Our Story,” http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/our-history.
National Institute of Mental Health, “The Teen Brain, 6 Things to Know,” https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-teen-brain-6-things-to-know/index.shtml#pub4.
Blue Cross Blue Shield, “Major Depression, the Impact on Overall Health,” https://www.bcbs.com/the-health-of-america/reports/major-depression-the-impact-overall-health