Adolescence is an exciting, energetic time of turbulence, change and transition.
It could be said that, psychologically, the developmental tasks of adolescence are the same as toddlerhood with sex thrown in. Key elements in the teens are transition from one stage to another (physically, mentally and socially); relationships and preparation for leaving childhood behind; and taking your place in the adult world of work and social responsibility.
Society has become much more aware of ‘mental health issues’, and rightly so. Evidence and experience shows us that feeling mentally unhealthy is on the increase in the Western World. Sometimes, though, this has meant that there is confusion about the difference between what is a problem needing intervention and the normal lows, life phases, hormonal and emotional ups and downs of life. It can even seem that having mental health issues is ‘the acceptable norm’. But just because there is a lot of something doesn’t mean it’s cool or right, or ok to be struggling without actually doing something to restore positive emotional balance. Real happiness means we accept there are difficulties in life and find ways to accommodate those difficulties, so then we are freed up to be positive. Living our lives in the most enhancing way possible is the rightful ‘normal’.
It is common in adolescence, however – this time of huge challenge and change where there is so much developmental work for the teenage psyche to be doing – for things to often get stressful and our emotions and minds feel swamped and disoriented, sometimes to the extent of harmful behaviours which express underlying and overwhelming distress.
This section contains a summary of some of the coping mechanisms (disorders) that actually lead to emotional ill-health and need to be replaced with healthier approaches to managing life and stress. The Royal College of Psychiatrists also has some very useful factsheets and the NHS website has a useful section ‘Young People and Mental Health‘.
All this information is helpful for you or to understand what a friend might be going through if you suspect they are depressed, seriously anxious, not eating healthily, are self-harming or even thinking about death.