Teenage mental health

As teenagers we are trapped in limbo, neither children nor adults. An excruciating mix of vulnerability and potential, which by turn engages, inspires and alienates adults. Trying to manage all of that intensity and to keep from feeling crazy, we all need some kind of outlet, whether it be someone, something or just you and your headspace. So why is there such a stigma and hush surrounding teenager’s mental health? 

We all know the importance of looking after our physical health, and if we don’t the effects are much more obvious and visible, yet just because we cannot ‘see’ our mental health, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and also needs exercise and a little TLC sometimes. The hardest thing for me is finding a balance – between work and relaxation, balancing different relationships, future careers and focusing on the present. Having bad days is pretty inevitable, as the cliché states: nobody is perfect, but when the bad days outweigh the good days – you may need to start questioning and looking at your physical and mental health and wellbeing.

The prevalence of media in all forms: social media, news, snapchat stories, text messages all take a toll and influence our daily emotions and mood. I imagine it like this: as humans we have a quota, a daily intake of negative media that we can tolerate, before it affects our mood or gets into our heads. But other factors also determine this intake: the weather, how well we slept, do we look okay today, do I have a hard day at work? All these little things adjust our quota and then the negative media can infiltrate and influence us on a much larger and deeper scale. I’m not saying all media is bad, it isn’t, but only the other day I scrolled down my Instagram feed to find 3 models posing on a beach, my friend having just won nationals at athletics and it was someone’s birthday and they got bought a car. Never had the saying: “it’s the highlight reel” been more accurate. But as Matt Haig says: 

“I don’t think it’s simply a social media problem. It’s a social values problem. People feel like they’re not valued as human beings.” 

So surely there are solutions? We can ‘fix’ mental health, right? Sadly, it’s not that simple. There comes a point where only a certain amount of research and data collecting surrounding the science inside our brains and how we respond to external factors etc can be done. Sure, it would be great to understand more about cause and effect, and how the brain interacts with the world. Also, how much of our mental health can we control through exercise or lifestyle factors, and how much is the genetic lottery of our brain chemistry? All of these are still grey areas. But many campaigners have called for the root causes of adolescent mental health crisis to be tackled, rather than just firefighting the symptoms. But the stigma surrounding mental health, means the all-important tricky conversations are avoided and dreaded – and I can vouch for that too. Recently however, there has been a shift in the amount of press and talk about mental health, it has almost become ‘trendy’ with more and more celebrities and famous people reaching out and sharing their stories. 

Matt Haig, a British journalist and novelist, wrote a book in 2015 titled: “Reasons to stay alive” and in the short 264-page book, he describes his journey through life-altering depression. In an interview with MQ (transforming mental health through research)[1]he said: 

“Our mental health can be affected by how we live – and one of the things that helped me get better was understanding that anxiety and depression weren’t 100% beyond my control. There were certain things I could do that helped. Running was a great reliever for me, because while you’re running, you’re having the symptoms of a panic attack. Your heart’s racing, you’re sweating, you’re out of breath, but you know why that’s happening. You can control it.”

So… 

Even if your sadness

feels quite heavy

the truth is

it’s just a paperweight

Learn to turn the page

– Courtney Peppernell

[1]https://www.mqmentalhealth.org/posts/q-and-a-matt-haig

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