Nearly a third of teenagers are struggling to cope with their mental health and social pressures – and have been feeling this way for over two years on average, according to research.
Over half of teens (56%) regularly feel anxious, with the average youngster struggling with these feelings for nine days each month, according to 1,000 people polled.
Social media and the increased cost-of-living are among the top contributors to anxiety – and breathwork, exercise, or speaking to a loved one are the most common ways to combat these feelings.
Other techniques to help teenagers keep calm include journaling, listening to a podcast, and meditation, according to the research commissioned by meditation and mental wellness app, Headspace.
But 89% of those who have struggled with their mental health have been in a situation where they needed help with their wellbeing, but weren’t sure how to access this support.
And 13% feel unsupported by the people around them and professionals.
It also emerged 31% of all teens polled have signed up to receive support with their wellness – but were on a waiting list for more than five months on average.
This has led to calls for more support groups specifically for teenagers (27%), wellbeing lessons in school (25%), meditation workshops (21%), and the opportunity to skip school when they're feeling low (24%), to keep their wellbeing in top shape.
Sam Snowden, mindfulness teacher at Headspace, said: “It’s important to remember that adolescents don’t have enough tools to navigate the highs and lows of life.
“When experiencing intensely difficult emotions for the first time, they may assume that this is how life will be going forward.
“This can be dangerous, as they may begin to believe negative thoughts like “nothing matters” and “things will never get better”.
“It’s up to us as adults to get teens the help they need, by connecting them with skilled and empathic mental health providers and peer support.”
The study also found half of those polled (51%) believe stress at school, university, and their workplace has negatively impacted their mental wellbeing.
And one in six (16%) admitted this has affected their schoolwork, while 15% believe it has impacted their friendships.
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To cope with this, 84% of those who have struggled with mental health feel comfortable talking to their pals about their wellbeing.
And 38% look up to their friends and family as mental health role models, according to the survey by OnePoll.
However, two in ten don’t have anyone to look up to in terms of mental health support.
It also emerged 62% would like to learn more about ways to ease stress, with three in five (61%) unaware of the potential benefits of meditation and mindfulness.
Sam Snowden added: “It's promising that teens are showing more openness and acceptance of mental health issues, decreasing the stigma and secrecy around it.
“It’s troubling, however, to know how difficult it can be to navigate the mental health system, which may require being on a waiting list for weeks or months before receiving care.
“Talking to family and friends is incredibly helpful, as teens know they don’t have to suffer alone and that they’re surrounded by people who want to help and listen with compassion.
“Practicing the tools of mindfulness helps to decrease rumination and help teens observe difficult thoughts with openness and self-compassion, instead of self-criticism and suppression.”
HEADSPACE’S TOP 10 WAYS TO IDENTIFY DEPRESSION IN TEENS:
- Social withdrawal – This may look like your child choosing to stay home instead of going out with friends, and spending more time by themselves.
- A lack of interest in things that they used to enjoy.
- Changes in mood – You may notice physical and behavioural signs of sadness, like lethargy and an increase in tearfulness.
- Signs of irritability including restlessness, difficulty concentrating, getting easily frustrated, and showing impatience and annoyance over small issues.
- Changes in appetite can move between two extremes – eating much less or much more than usual.
- Your child may have a hard time getting out of bed or taking care of daily habits, like the upkeep of personal hygiene and chores around the house.
- You may notice changes in their sleep patterns, like difficulty falling asleep or oversleeping and having a hard time getting out of bed.
- Your child may express disinterest in school and stop caring about turning in assignments or maintaining good grades.
- They may show difficulty in making small decisions or answering questions about what they like or need.
- Expressing thoughts of worthlessness or overwhelm (“I can’t take this anymore”).
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