In a recent report in The Guardian, a study showed children and young people have six times the rate of mental health issues than the previous generation. Experts have described the situation as a “crisis”.
Tom Madders, the director of campaigns at the charity Young Minds, said: “It’s worrying that there has been such a huge rise in young people reporting long-term mental health problems, and this report provides yet more evidence of the growing crisis.”
According to a different report in news.com.au, high psychological distress and rates of suicide were found in young people. According to National Mental Health Commission chief executive officer Dr Peggy Brown, “Many issues which go on to develop into mental health problems in adolescence can be identified, prevented and managed if picked up earlier in childhood.” She also added, “When you’re young, the onset of mental illness disrupts every facet of your life — school, family, social life and job prospects — and your future potential.”
“Anxiety is easy to dismiss or overlook, partially because everyone has it to some degree,” explained Philip Kendall, director of the Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Temple University in Philadelphia in the New York Times.
Those who suffer from it are often misunderstood and stigmatised, especially in Singapore. In a study published in the BMJ, 44.5 per cent of students in Singapore were shown to have thought of mental health issues in a negative light, using words such as ‘crazy’, ‘weird’, ‘scary’, ‘stupid’, ‘should avoid’ and ‘dangerous’ to describe those who suffer from it.
“This is of concern as fear of stigma is thought to play a key role in the large treatment gap found in the adult population, and this could also present as an issue in the youth population. Besides avoiding treatment, youths may also lack social support if they find mental illness to be an embarrassing or taboo topic”, the authors wrote in the journal.
According to the Samaritans of Singapore (SOS), there were 27 suicides in 2015 in the 10 to 19 age group, double from the previous year. This age group contributed to 9 per cent of the SOS hotline calls in 2015, which is a 7.5 per cent increase from 2012.
While there are no specific causes, it could be argued that social media contributes to this. According to Jean M. Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of Generation Me and iGen in the Atlantic, “The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers’ lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household.”
It is important for us to listen to our children and do our best to understand them. Even if we do not know everything about them, we should look out for any signs of mental distress and seek the help of experts.
By Muhd Farhan