Mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD have become more common among teens and young adults, affecting their academic performance and professional prospects. Let’s examine some of the factors behind the increase in mental health issues, and how parental and institutional support are necessary in helping teens fulfill their potential.
CDC analyses from 2021 found that about 4 in 10 high school students expressed persistent sadness or feelings of hopelessness in the last year. It’s clear, especially in the post-COVID landscape, that teens need help managing and improving their mental health, and that schools and communities alike need to pick up the slack on mental health initiatives.
But do these feelings of hopelessness translate to problems at school? The answer is yes. From low mood and depression to episodes of substance use, teen mental health issues reduce focus, affect cognition, and pull a teen’s attention away from their academic goals and responsibilities – and, as a result, their future.
Poor mental health during the teen years can cut into your teen’s early life success. Addressing the factors that contribute to a student’s mental health is important, not just for their academic success, but for their general wellness.
What Affects Student Mental Health?
Teens have been struggling with mental health issues long before COVID. While the pandemic accentuated many of these problems due to financial woes, trouble at home, the effects of the virus itself, and social isolation, mental health rates among the youth have risen starkly in recent years. At least part of that can be explained by an improvement in the awareness and understanding of mental health issues. Today’s high school students are more comfortable openly admitting to feeling lonely or sad, sometimes to a significant degree.
But there are other contributing factors, as well. Racism and prejudice have been on a sharp increase. LGBTQ+ teens in particular are far more likely to consider suicide than their heterosexual peers, and LGBTQ+ teens have been targeted by more hate crimes and acts of violence in the last few years.
Social media may have a role to play, as well. Teens are ever more reliant on technology to interface with peers, especially during the pandemic years. But too much screen time or too much of an online presence can negatively impact teen self-worth and self-esteem. Research from tech firms shows that their products and algorithms also affect teen mental health rates, and even inadvertently promoted eating disorders.
There’s no question that teens have a lot to deal with right now.
How Does Mental Health Affect Students?
Poor mental health correlates strongly with poor academic performance, and problems with productivity and personal potential in early adulthood. Teens with mental health problems aren’t just struggling to pass classes, but will have a harder time with decision making, time management, executive functioning, prioritization, and their physical health. They’re more likely to get less sleep, more likely to experience drug use at an earlier age, more likely to experience violence, and are at a higher risk of unsafe sexual behaviors. Poor mental health can affect a teen’s life in many ways, including:
- Academic Impact
- Decline in Academic Performance
- Difficulty Concentrating and Learning
- Increased Absenteeism
- Impact on Career Goals
- Isolation and Loneliness
- Strained Friendships
- Impact on Family Dynamics
- Barriers to Social Engagement
- Physical Health
- Sleep Disruptions
- Changes in Appetite and Nutrition
- Physical Symptoms of Stress
- Long-term Health Consequences
- Behavioral Changes
- Risky Behaviors and Substance Abuse
- Self-harm and Suicidal Thoughts
- Coping Mechanisms and Maladaptive Behaviors
- Impact on Decision-Making
Improving Access to Resources
Students need to know that they have someone to turn to, whether at home or at school. Making kids aware of their options is important. Talk to your teen and their school about finding local resources, getting the number of the available counselor or mental health professional, or about helping your teen talk to a therapist.
Teen mental health is an important topic. As the stigma surrounding mental health issues lifts, more and more people are beginning to talk about how they feel, causing mental health rates to continue to rise. While encouraging people to speak up about their mental health is a good thing, it’s also become a cause for concern among many parents and educators. We field a lot of questions about teen mental health here at Visions, such as:
Can mental health issues affect a student’s career goals? Poorer academic performance can limit a teen’s career options, but unaddressed mental health problems can also make it harder for teens to succeed in their chosen line of work. While people with mental health problems are protected from discrimination, they can still be terminated or refused certain opportunities because of productivity deficits or behavioral issues at work.
Does stigma still play a role in students seeking help? Stigma is still very much a problem among students. While today’s teens are more understanding and tolerant of certain mental health issues, kids are kids, and kids can be cruel. Many teens won’t want to speak up about how they feel because they’re worried about victimization. Encouraging teens to talk to an adult or speak with a counselor about how they really feel is important.
How can I help my teen manage their stress and prioritize their mental health? Being a role model is a good start. Teens are still impressionable and are more likely to pick up habits that they’re used to seeing in their peers and parents. Sometimes, the first step towards helping your teen prioritize their self-care and pick up better coping habits is to show that you can do so too.
Conclusion: Better mental health screening tools, better access to mental healthcare within the community and at school, better measures taken to improve student mental health, support the continued growth of mental health awareness, and tackle the stigmatization of mental health issues all go a long way towards normalizing and addressing the issue of mental health in modern society, especially among our students.
For teens struggling with mental health problems at school and at home, seeking treatment is important. Conditions like generalized anxiety or major depression do not go away on their own. We at Visions can work with your teen to provide them with an individualized treatment plan and ensure that they continue to keep up with their peers at school while getting help. Give us a call today to get started.