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About 200 million teens are suffering from mental health crisis globally. In the US, about 18 million teens are suffering from various mental health conditions. The alarming part is that there has been a constant trend of increase.
The youth mental health crisis is very real. Girls, in particular, are really in crisis. According to the CDC – US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – report from earlier this year, almost 60 percent of US teen girls said they felt persistently sad or hopeless. And one in three seriously had contemplated attempting suicide in 2021. That’s almost a 60 percent increase from the decade before. The most chilling fact is that the numbers of teen suicides actually jumped from 2007 to 2018.[Quote] And that’s before the pandemic. I think the only thing we can see that changed in society at that time was social media. We should seriously consider US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s advisory that social media could be very dangerous for certain teenagers, and particularly ones who have a mental health disorder. There have been a number of studies that have shown that passive interactions, like scrolling through Instagram posts or seeing all the experiences others are having, could be linked to declines in subjective well-being over time. If you are using social media in active ways, it might not only be DMing [direct messaging] people, but also using it for professional connections, and to develop social circles. Compare that to passive interactions, where you’re seeing how many likes something can get. Even giving something a thumbs up still falls into the passive bucket, because you’re not actually interacting with others in a different way. [Unquote]
Mental health issues among teenagers have garnered increasing attention due to their long-term implications, including their potential impact on the future workforce. Adolescence is a critical period of development, and mental health challenges during this time can have lasting effects on educational attainment, career prospects, and overall well-being. We shall explore the gender, class, and racial variations in the incidence of mental health issues in teens and examine the factors contributing to the rise of these challenges.
Research has consistently shown that adolescent girls are more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety compared to boys. This gender gap often persists into adulthood, potentially affecting career choices and workforce participation. Social pressures related to appearance can disproportionately impact girls, leading to issues such as poor self-esteem and eating disorders. These challenges may also affect their confidence and career aspirations.
Girls are also more likely to be victims of cyberbullying, which can contribute to mental health issues. The effects of cyberbullying can extend into the workplace as victims may carry these experiences with them into their careers.
Adolescents from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often have limited access to mental health resources and support systems. This lack of access can exacerbate mental health challenges and hinder educational and career opportunities.
Economic disparities can lead to higher stress levels and feelings of inequality among teens. Persistent stressors can affect academic performance and, consequently, future workforce prospects.
Social determinants of health, such as housing instability and neighborhood quality, can impact mental health outcomes. Adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds may face additional stressors that affect their mental well-being.
Cultural factors can influence the perception and expression of mental health issues. Some racial and ethnic groups may be less likely to seek mental health support due to stigma or cultural norms, potentially leading to underdiagnosis and undertreatment.
Experiences of discrimination and racism can have profound effects on the mental health of racial and ethnic minority teenagers. These stressors may persist into adulthood and influence career choices and opportunities.
Disparities in access to mental health care services exist among different racial and ethnic groups. Limited access can lead to unmet mental health needs and hinder future workforce participation.
Factors Contributing to Increase in Global Mental Health Issues
Increased screen time and exposure to social media has contributed to mental health challenges, including cyberbullying, social comparison, and addiction to online platforms.
High academic expectations and competition lead to stress and anxiety among teenagers. These pressures can affect their educational trajectories and career choices.
Family-related stressors, such as parental divorce or dysfunction, contribute to mental health issues in adolescents. These challenges may impact their overall well-being and future workforce readiness.
Peer relationships and social dynamics can have a significant impact on adolescent mental health. Issues related to peer pressure, bullying, and social exclusion can affect self-esteem and confidence.
Economic instability, as witnessed in events like the global financial crisis or economic recessions, can lead to increased stress and anxiety among teens, who may worry about their future job prospects.
Mental health of youth is a great concern for these reasons.
In the developing countries, youth dominate as the population segment. High prevalence of mental health in them puts the entire society at risk.
Developing countries desperately need to develop on social, educational, and economic fronts. Mental health issues are not just compromising the present growth, these are posing grave risk for the future also.
Developed countries have dual problem: their population growth is in decline or even negative, which means their component of younger population is smaller. They are trying to cope with the ever-rising aged population which will be leaving workforce consistently. Their youth shall be unable to fill the vacancies and they will have to allow more immigrants to run their systems. Immigrants have a deep and long-lasting impact on the social fabric of any country.
Therefore, mental health issues in teenagers have multifaceted implications for the future. Gender, class, and racial differences exist in the incidence of these challenges, highlighting the need for targeted interventions and support. Factors contributing to the increase in mental health issues are complex and interconnected, requiring a holistic approach to address these issues effectively. To ensure a mentally healthy future workforce, it is crucial to prioritize early intervention, de-stigmatization, and equitable access to mental health resources and support for all adolescents, regardless of their background or circumstances.
We shall review Pakistan situation in the next post.
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