Globally, one in six people are aged 10-19 years. Adolescence is a unique and formative time. Physical, emotional and social changes, including exposure to poverty, abuse, or violence, can make adolescents vulnerable to mental health problems. Globally, it is estimated that 1 in 7 (14%) 10–19-year-olds experience mental health conditions, yet these remain largely unrecognized and untreated.
Mental Health Determinants
Adolescence is a crucial period for developing social and emotional habits important for mental well-being. These include adopting healthy sleep patterns, exercising regularly, developing coping, problem-solving and interpersonal skills; and learning to manage emotions. Protective and supportive environments in the family, at school and in the wider community are important. Factors that can contribute to stress during adolescence include exposure to adversity and pressure to conform with peers. Media influence and gender norms can exacerbate the disparity between an adolescent’s lived reality and their perceptions or aspirations for the future.
Emotional disorders are common among adolescents. Anxiety disorders (which may involve panic or excessive worry) are the most prevalent in this age group and are more common among older than among younger adolescents. It is estimated that 3.6% of 10–14-year-olds and 4.6% of 15–19-year-olds experience an anxiety disorder. Depression is estimated to occur among 1.1% of adolescents aged 10-14 years, and 2.8% of 15-19-year-olds. Depression and anxiety share some of the same symptoms, including rapid and unexpected changes in mood.
Suicide and self-harm
Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in older adolescents (15-19 years). Risk factors for suicide include harmful use of alcohol, abuse in childhood, stigma against help-seeking, barriers to accessing care and access to means of suicide.
Many risk-taking behaviors for health, such as substance use, start during adolescence. Risk-taking behaviors can be an unhelpful strategy to cope with emotional difficulties and can severely impact an adolescent’s mental and physical well-being.
The use of tobacco and cannabis are also contributing to risk-taking behaviors. Many adult smokers had their first cigarette prior to the age of 18 years. Cannabis is the most widely used drug among young people with about 4.7% of 15-16 years-olds using it at least once.
Promotion and Prevention
Mental health promotion and prevention interventions aim to strengthen an individual’s capacity to regulate emotions, enhance alternatives to risk-taking behaviors, build resilience for managing difficult situations and promote supportive social environments and networks.
- Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030-World Health organization (W.H.O.)
- Guidelines on promotive and preventive mental health interventions for adolescents-World Health Organization (W.H.O.)