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May is mental health awareness month.
While the pandemic has taken a toll on many aspects of life, it has especially affected the mental health of teenagers. Through this challenging time, it is essential to prioritize mental health. Mental health includes the physical, emotional, and social well-being of a person.
Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood to old age, but is particularly important during adolescence. From the age of 10 to 19, youth are considered to be adolescents. This period of life is when the brain experiences the most change and development. Due to these ongoing changes, the adolescent brain is vulnerable to mental health problems. The adolescent brain also responds to stress differently than adults, thus leading to stress-related mental disorders.
Over time, a person’s mental health could change due to several reasons, some including working long hours and/or experiencing economic hardship. Biological factors, such as genetics or brain chemistry, life experiences, such as trauma or abuse, and family history of mental health problems, are also factors of mental health.
There are numerous early warning signs of poor mental health to look out for in oneself or in others. Warning signs may include, but are not limited to:
Eating or sleeping too much or too little
Having low or no energy
Unexplained aches and pains
Feeling helpless or hopeless
Pulling away from people and activities
Severe mood swings
Inability to perform daily tasks
Persistent thoughts and memories
Fighting with family and friends
Feeling confused, forgetful, on edge, upset, angry, scared, or worried
In comparison to mental health is mental illness. It is important to note that someone can be diagnosed with a mental illness and experience social well-being, and someone can have poor mental health but not be diagnosed with a mental illness. Over 50% of the population of the United States are diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder in their lifetime. A few examples of mental illness include depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
While mental health and mental illnesses are not something that can be easily, or at all, fixed, there are many self-care methods that may positively affect one’s mental affect. Self-care methods may include walking and exercising, journaling, therapy, eating and drinking regularly, prioritizing sleep, and listening to music. Although these methods can be effective, it is okay to take time for yourself and prioritize your mental health.