Adolescence is a critical time for developing social and emotional habits that are essential for mental health. Adopting healthy sleep patterns, exercising regularly, developing coping, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills, and learning to manage emotions are all examples of these. Protective and supportive environments are essential in the family, at school, and in the larger community.
Mental health is influenced by a variety of factors. The more risk factors adolescents are exposed to, the worse their mental health may suffer. Exposure to adversity, peer pressure to conform, and identity exploration are all factors that can contribute to stress during adolescence. The disparity between adolescent’s lived reality and their perceptions or aspirations for the future can be exacerbated by media influence and gender norms. The quality of their home life and their relationships with peers are also important determinants. Violence (particularly sexual violence and bullying), harsh parenting, and severe socioeconomic problems are all known risks to one’s mental health.
Some adolescents are more likely to develop mental health problems as a result of their living circumstances, stigma, discrimination, exclusion, or a lack of access to quality support and services. Adolescents living in humanitarian and vulnerable settings; adolescents with chronic illness, autism spectrum disorder, an intellectual disability, or other neurological condition; pregnant adolescents, adolescent parents, or those in early or forced marriages; orphans; and adolescents from minority ethnic or sexual backgrounds or other discriminated groups are among those included.
Adolescents are prone to emotional problems. Anxiety disorders are the most common in this age group, and they are more common in older adolescents than in younger adolescents. Anxiety disorders affect 3.6 percent of 10-14-year-olds and 4.6 percent of 15-19-year-olds. Depression is estimated to affect 1.1 percent of 10-14-year-olds and 2.8 percent of 15-19-year-olds. Depression and anxiety share some symptoms, such as abrupt and unexpected mood changes.
Anxiety and depressive disorders can have a significant impact on school attendance and performance. Isolation and loneliness can be exacerbated by social withdrawal. Suicide can be caused by depression.
Younger adolescents are more likely than older adolescents to have behavioral disorders. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is characterized by difficulty paying attention, excessive activity, and acting without regard for consequences, affects 3.1 percent of children aged 10 to 14 and 2.4 percent of children aged 15 to 19. Conduct disorder affects 3.6 percent of 10-14-year-olds and 2.4 percent of 15-19-year-olds. Adolescents’ education can be harmed by behavioral disorders, and conduct disorders can lead to criminal behavior.
Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are more common in adolescence and early adulthood. Eating disorders are characterized by abnormal eating behavior and a preoccupation with food, which is often accompanied by concerns about body weight and shape. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder, often due to medical complications or suicide.
Conditions characterized by psychotic symptoms most commonly appear in late adolescence or early adulthood. Hallucinations and delusions are examples of symptoms. These experiences can impair an adolescent’s ability to participate in daily life and education, and they frequently result in stigma or violations of human rights.
Suicide and Self-harm
Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among older adolescents (15-19 years old). Suicide risk factors include harmful alcohol use, childhood abuse, stigma against seeking help, barriers to care, and access to means of suicide. Digital media, like any other form of media, has the potential to strengthen or weaken suicide prevention efforts.
Many health-related risk-taking behaviors, such as substance abuse or sexual risk-taking, begin during adolescence. Risk-taking behaviors can be an unhelpful coping strategy for emotional difficulties, negatively impacting adolescents’ mental and physical well-being. In 2016, the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking among adolescents aged 1519 years was 13.6 percent worldwide, with males being the most vulnerable. Tobacco and cannabis use also causes concern. Many adult smokers first smoked when they were under the age of 18. Cannabis is the most commonly used drug among teenagers, with approximately 4.7 percent of 15-16-year-olds using it at least once in 2018. Violence is risk-taking behavior that can increase the likelihood of low educational attainment, injury, criminal involvement, or death. Interpersonal violence was among the leading causes of death of older adolescent boys in 2019.
Promotion and prevention
Interventions for mental health promotion and prevention aim to improve an individual’s ability to regulate emotions, improve alternatives to risk-taking behaviors, build resilience for dealing with difficult situations and adversity, and promote supportive social environments and social networks.
These programs necessitate a multi-level approach with delivery platforms such as digital media, health or social care settings, schools, or the community and strategies to reach adolescents, particularly the most vulnerable.
Early detection and treatment
It is critical to address the needs of adolescents suffering from mental illnesses. Adolescent mental health depends on avoiding institutionalization and over-medicalization, prioritizing non-pharmacological approaches, and respecting children’s rights under the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child and other human rights instruments.