We know surprisingly little about adolescent mental health at present.
Whether things really are worse for young people now, or whether we’re simply better at identifying emotional distress and mental ill health remains a point for debate, there can be no denying that there’s a problem and that as lecturers we need to be clued up on what to look out for.
A sad fact of modern life is the sometimes crushing pressure felt by young people as they try to make sense of the world and the communities in which they live.
Rates of depression and anxiety among teenagers have increased by 70 per cent in the past 25 years. The number of children and young people turning up in A&E with a psychiatric condition has more than doubled since 2009 and, in the past three years, hospital admissions for teenagers with eating disorders have also almost doubled.
For parents and lecturers this is a difficult thing to confront. So, what can we do to make sure young people don’t slip through the net? Recognising the signs to look out for is a great start.
As lecturers we are not around simply to teach, we also have to promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of students in our care. That means being vigilant about the way student’s present themselves.
What changes do we notice in behaviour and the way they interact with friends and peers? How about appearance and general mood? If students are uncharacteristically introverted or irritable, take that as a sign that all isn’t well. Rapid changes in weight can be worrying signs too.
Take words seriously
All suicidal ideation needs to be taken very seriously. If a student expresses an interest in suicide or self-harm of any description must be taken seriously and support put in place.
Focus on bullying
While we don’t know exact figures, it is thought that being a victim of bullying is a major contributory factor in poor mental health.
If bullying, even of the relatively mild variety (such as “banter” or teasing) is tolerated in your college, it is likely that the mental health of victims will be adversely affected. Stamp it out as soon as you can and offer students safe opportunities for them to talk about any bullying they are experiencing without fear of recrimination.
If you are in any doubt about changes or behaviour you’re witnessing in one of your students, always seek advice. Your line manager is the best place to start, or if your college has someone assigned to promoting wellbeing in students, speak to him or her. There are also excellent sources of online support (see below).
Sources of advice
Teen Mental Health provides information about mental health and provide you with resources that can help you understand your mental health and assist those you care about.
The Young Minds website is a great source of advice and information for young people, parents and lecturers.
The Mental Health Foundation has plenty of useful information for lecturers.
This article was originally published on eTeach.