If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, or affected by eating disorders, it’s a sign that you might be struggling with stresses or personal difficulties.
In the UK, about 20 per cent of people aged between 16 and 24 are thought to have a significant mental health problem.
Because adolescence and early adulthood are full of changes and challenges – sexuality, friendships and pressure to prove yourself in exams, for example – you can start to experience mental health problems around this age.
If you’re dealing with other problems too, such as family conflict, bullying, bereavement, poverty, emotional deprivation or abuse, it can feel like a vulnerable time.
Symptoms of depression
If you’re depressed you may be:
- sad, withdrawn and less interested in things you used to enjoy
- worried and anxious
- critical of yourself and the way you look
- eating and sleeping much more, or much less, than in the past
- harming yourself (for example, drinking too much or taking too many drugs, cutting yourself or intentionally putting yourself in dangerous or risky situations)
- angry and aggressive
- confused and acting in unfamiliar ways
- avoiding college, work or social situations
Alcohol and drugs can seem to provide an escape from your problems, but can create an extra layer of difficulty if your use of them becomes excessive.
Why depression happens
Your self-image begins to take shape during adolescence, and if you haven’t experienced stable or loving relationships in your early life you might experience self-destructive thoughts and feelings.
If you have had emotional security from your family, plus education, social support and good physical health, your risk of mental distress ever reaching the point of breakdown is much less than for people who haven’t had this sort of stability.
Major changes, such as leaving home and the support of family and friends you grew up with, usually coincide with early adulthood, and can leave some people struggling to cope.
People who can help with depression
If you’re worried about the stigma attached to mental illness, it can be very difficult to ask for help. The thing to remember is that a lot can be done to prevent and treat mental health problems, but it’s crucial you get help early on.
There are lots of different people – in the NHS and private and voluntary organisations – who can offer you help and support.
- Talk to someone you trust (although you might not feel able to trust anyone).
- See your GP because they’re there to help you – they won’t judge you and will be able to refer you for appropriate, specialised help.
- Use the internet to find out what might help you, there are useful links on the right of this page.
Treatments for depression
You may be offered the following types of help:
- cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)
- psychodynamic therapy
- group therapy
- medication (this can sometimes help in the short term, but many psychiatric medicines aren’t recommended for people under 18)
- family therapy
- creative therapies (art, music or dance)
Alongside counselling and therapies, anything that helps you find trusting relationships and the sense that you belong somewhere and that you’re valued will improve your mental health and wellbeing.
How to keep yourself mentally healthy
- Make time to relax and enjoy yourself.
- Spend time with friends, having fun.
- Do something physical that you enjoy, such as playing football, dancing etc.
- Organise your time so you feel on top of the things you need to do.
- Spend time every day thinking about the things you really like about yourself.
- Take a thoughtful, compassionate attitude to yourself when you’re struggling with something, as you would with a friend.
- Find things you can laugh about – humour is good for your physical and mental health.
From BBC Health