Early support children and young people to look after their mental health and wellbeing are really important. Good mental health habits during adolescence provide a solid foundation for positive mental health in the future.
While they go through puberty and the stage of development called adolescence young people deal with many changes. Changes in the hormones and brain result in changes to their body as well as how they think and feel. It is normal for them to experience lots of emotions that can change quickly.
It is normal for young people to feel stressed, worried, scared, sad, embarrassed, frustrated or angry at times. These feelings can be in response to something they are dealing with, like stress at school, issues with friends or a relationship break-up or about everyday things. However, all young people are different and will deal with feelings in different ways, but some of them are fairly easy-going and don’t get too stressed by events or their feelings. Others might have strong reactions and feelings and find it harder to deal with things and learn to calm down.
While most young people experience difficult feelings, they usually don’t last too long. However, if they feel low, anxious, sad or irritable much of the time, it is not a normal part of adolescence.
When they feel low, young people may:
- say they feel alone
- be tearful, sad or angry
- lack motivation or energy
- feel worthless or guilty
- lack of interest in things they used to enjoy
- have a low concentration or make poor decisions
- stay away from family and friends
- eat more or less than usual and gain or lose weight
- have sleep problems.
It is important to help young people deal with emotional ups and downs rather than leaving them to work things out by themselves.
You can help young people to:
- be active. Even small amounts of regular physical activity can help reduce stress
- eat well and get plenty of sleep. Young people need at least 9 hours each night. Those who are sleep deprived don’t do as well at school and are at higher risk for depression
- find activities they enjoy like a sport or hobby, and ways to express their feelings like talking, writing, art, dance or performance
- develop healthy ways to relax and unwind. Help them understand that drinking or taking drugs doesn’t solve problems set appropriate limits and understand about risks
- deal with problems as they arise rather than let things build up
- accept their emotions and learn to notice what these feelings are telling them. Knowing how to manage feelings takes time and practice but is an important skill that will help them do well in life
- find accurate information that can help them make good decisions, especially about important things like alcohol and drugs, sexuality, relationships
- have realistic goals. Achieving even small goals builds confidence and motivation.
Being warm and loving, setting appropriate limits and finding the positives in your child or young person helps them build good mental health.