We Don’t Understand Teen Mental Health by L.W.

I am surrounded by mental illness.

It sounds extreme, I know. But many of my friends are affected by some sort of depression. As a high schooler, the thing you are always told is that you should let an adult know. But here’s the problem. Many adults don’t actually believe that mental illness is a real problem. One of my friends has continued to tell her parents that she wants to go to therapy and get better. And all they tell her is to suck it up. Even though there are available counselors at the school, the only people she feels comfortable telling are her closest friends. She barely was able to tell her parents.

Can you imagine telling your parents that you want to go see a psychiatrist and being yelled at? What about telling them that you’re borderline suicidal and being told that you’re just being dramatic? Probably not. But these kinds of experiences are common occurrences for kids and teenageers with mental illnesses. Mental health is a serious issue, but a lot of people don’t treat it as such. These kids are told and convinced that they’re making it up or exaggerating their problems.

Mental health issues are especially prominent in teenagers and young adults. According to youngminds.org, about 20% of youth in the US are affected by some kind mental illness that prevents them from functioning in day to day life. At this point, the percentage of youth being affected by mental illness is higher than the percentage with health conditions like asthma or diabetes. Even though so many people have mental health issues, they are not treated as a serious problem.

Much of the disbelief of mental illness in teenagers and young adults comes from parents and other adults in their lives. It isn’t treated as a serious problem and the affected youth are unable to get the help they need. Part of the problem comes from the fact that the number of people aged 15-16 who have depression came close to doubling from 1980 to 2000, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Mental illness wasn’t as much of a known problem when many of today’s adults were growing up. It’s a seemingly new issue that we have to learn how to understand and we haven’t quite figured it out yet.

The signs are surrounding us, we just need to see them and listen to those who are telling us that they need help.

When I talked to my friend, she told me that she feels she really needs to go see a psychiatrist because her mental health is tanking. “I’m getting really bad and I know it, but I can’t go do anything without my parents. They won’t let me go and they actually yelled at me for wanting to go.” Her parents don’t believe it’s an issue. They believe she can work through it. She, however, disagrees. “I know my mental health a lot better than they do. I legit have more days where I’m sad than where I’m even remotely happy.”

I know people who are borderline suicidal and their parents won’t let them go to a therapist or anything. It’s terrifying. According to healthychildren.org, suicide is one of the leading causes of death for people aged 15 to 24. Studies have shown that more than 90% of teens who commit suicide have depression or some other mental health issue.

Many adults don’t understand what that truly means. “I think that we really need the adults around us to understand what’s going on,” my friend said. “It kind of sucks, but they run the world. If we get them to understand, things are going to be a whole lot easier for kids with depression.”

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