Longford's Shane Reid: 'The importance of fostering good mental health practices in our young people'

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Mental health

It is vital that our young people are given the tools to look after their mental health, says Shane Reid

Growing up can be tough.

I think we often forget how strong we had to be in our youth. And while most adolescents will experience good mental health there are also multiple physical, emotional and social changes that can make them vulnerable to mental health problems such as depression.

There is no one single cause of mental health difficulties in young people. In the Internet obsessed world we live they are often susceptible to images of how they think they should look, or what latest gadget they should own, or which fancy holiday their friend is going on.

The Internet has offered adolescents many more opportunities to feel inferior or that they are not good enough which in turn can often lead to depression as well as problems with self-esteem and confidence.

It is vital that our young people are given the tools to look after their mental health.

And those tools are about more than being free of mental illness. They’re about their wellbeing as a whole. Good mental health allows us to enjoy life that bit better, it gives us the tools to believe in our own abilities, and gives us the strength and courage to cope with the normal stresses of life. So it’s important that we encourage these practices in young people.

According to the HSE as many as one in four young people may experience depression before they are 19 so it’s so important to get help early if you think your child may be suffering depression. Early intervention can help stop it from becoming a long term problem.

Symptoms of depression in children often include sadness, long term low mood, persistent irritability, not showing interest in things they used to enjoy and also feeling tired and frequent exhaustion. Difficulties at school such as behavioural problems, especially in boys, can also be a sign and children who are a little older may misuse drugs or alcohol.

Mike Mansfield from Jigsaw, The National Centre for Youth Mental Health, told this column; “As our world continues to change,the stresses on our young people appear to be higher than at any other time in history.

"Young people are feeling tremendous pressure to succeed and again and again we are hearing that young people continue to struggle with the gap between their lived reality and their public persona becoming ever greater.

"The search for identity, belonging and purpose are critical psychological challenges in the lifespan between the ages of 12 and 25 years. Early interventions are key here. If we can get in during the early stages we can catch mental health issues early and assist young people in developing coping skills and resilience that will equip them to deal with future challenges.”

Jigsaw is a national centre for youth mental health. They focus on intervening early to support the mental health of those aged 12 to 25 years of age.They offer a place young people can visit for free with confidential support from trained mental health professionals. For more information please visit www.jigsaw.ie

As much for a young person as it is for a concerned parent or guardian it’s really important to remember that a lot of mental health issues are common, and are very treatable and with appropriate help, time and effort a lot of young people can and do come through them and lead fulfilling successful lives.