The Importance of Increased Mental Health Awareness


Bridget Gedeon

Earlier in the year at Sacred Heart, the students attended an assembly regarding the importance of mental health for adolescents.  The school’s mental health counselor, Alyssa Rodriguez, spoke on the topic along with Lisa Prefontaine, a representative from Horizon Health Services.  The assembly also ended with a performance of “You Will Be Found” from the hit Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen by Sacred Heart’s glee club.  In today’s society where adolescents are constantly facing stimuli coming from all directions giving impressions on how to behave and look and strive for perfection, this can cause issues in their self-esteem and mental well-being.  After conducting some research on this topic, I realized just how prevalent issues with teengers’ mental health are in our world.

According to a report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about 21.4% of adolescents (ages 13-18) experience a mental illness in any given year that hinders or limits at least one major life activity.  Some of the most common mental health issues among teenagers include anxiety disorders, depression, ADHD, and eating disorders.  Anxiety is the most prevalent, as it occurs in about 32% of 13-to-18-year-olds.  Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias.  Depression is also highly common, occurring in around 13% of 12-to-17-year-olds.  Types include depressive disorder, postpartum depression after giving birth, and seasonal affective disorder.  Three percent of 13-to-18-year-olds are found to have eating disorders like anorexia nerviosa, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.  Based on these previously mentioned 2017 statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, mental health disorders are way more common among teenagers than one might realize, even though it’s not prevalent among the majority.  However, not much attention is given to the importance of mental health in schools.  If mental health issues are so common, then why don’t enough people discuss them or offer more support to those with them?  What could be causing so many teenagers to have issues with their mental well-being and what could we possibly do about it?

In the case of stress, a survey of the students found that top causes of it included schoolwork, parents, friends, romantic relationships, and physical changes.  While some stress is helpful, having too much of it can affect our health and emotions, even hurting our concentration, sleep patterns, relationships, and over worrying.  Physical changes during adolescence can often be stressful for teens, as they are growing up and dealing with responsibilities that come with it.  Factors contributing to a teen’s mental health include relationships with peers, quality of home life, violence, socio-economic problems, media influence, and their access to and usage of technology.  Some mental health issues may possibly even be caused by chemical imbalances in one’s brain.  As of 2016, suicide was found to be the third leading cause of death in older adolescents.  It was believed that 62,000 adolescents died in that year from self-harm, according to the World Health Organization.  Attempts can be impulsive or associated with mental health issues, but it has been increasingly more common over the years.  Because suicide tends to be associated with mental health issues, it also needs greater awareness and prevention.

For everyone suffering with their mental health, the causes of it are different, but they are the same in the fact that they need support.  No matter the circumstances behind and type of mental illness that someone may suffer from, they can benefit from a variety of interventions that are available.  Most people suffering from mental health issues don’t even get diagnosed or treated, which can worsen their already damaged well-being.  No one suffering from it deserves to go through it alone.  Possible interventions include going to a trusted adult, contacting doctors, or discussing concerns with a trained mental health professional such as a social worker, psychologist, or counselor.  Even though many teenagers may think they’re alone in experiencing their mental health issues, they’re not, and they would benefit from intervention and support from those they are close to.  More than ever in our society and even as Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, we should be supportive of increased mental health awareness and promotion of helping those struggling with mental illness.

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental illness, these hotlines can be of service:

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis: text HOME to 741741

Poison Control: 1-800-222-1222

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

SAMHSA Disaster Distress Helpline: 800-985-5990

National Institute of Mental Health: 866-615-6464

Office on Women’s Health: 800-994-9662