The Children’s Society states that the chances of young people having mental health problems has risen by 50%, in the last three years, and according to the World Health Organisation, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds. As a result of this, researchers have looked at different cultural trends, that may be a driver of the increased number of people struggling with their mental health.
The rise of social media
The biggest users of social media are younger demographics, with a survey revealing that 91% of 15-16-year-olds used social media, suggesting that exposure to social media begins at a young age. Therefore, younger age groups are exposed to the negative impacts of social media, more than any other age group, such as bullying, rumor-spreading, and unrealistic views of peoples’ lives, which encourages constant comparison to others. Celebrities, and influencers, edit their pictures, increasing body image concerns and insecurities amongst their adolescent audience. This reduces self-esteem and inevitably leads to a rise in social anxiety and mental health problems. Comparatively, people spend more time contacting to their friends online, rather than interacting face to face, which has caused a decline is social and communication skills.
Furthermore, average screen time has plummeted, with teenagers, aged 13 to 18, using social media for up to 9 hours per day. High amounts of time spent on social media is extremely unhealthy because it disturbs sleep. Those who heavily use their phones before bed are deprived of sleep since the light, emitted from the screen, tricks the body into thinking it is not time to sleep, and sufficient sleep is necessary for the human body to function adequately.
The mental health impact of bullying
Secondary school pupils are most likely to experience bullying. The National Center for Education Statistics reveal that one out of every five students between the ages of 12 and 18 have experienced bullying at some point, yet fewer than half of the students report the bullying to the school. Also, secondary school pupils are more vulnerable to cyberbullying.
These problems can contribute to academic difficulties since students who are regularly bullied may not turn up to school or participate in school trips and sports activities. They also may find it more difficult to make friends with their peers, which can massively impact their social development. Sometimes, victims of bullying may also start to believe that the negative statements they hear about themselves are true, and feel less confident, or ashamed, especially if the criticisms are about something that they cannot change, such as their skin colour, or height.
Exploration of identity
During the process of a child’s development, every child goes through an intense period of identity exploration. However, some may question their sense of self, or place in this world, and face conflict. Signs of an identity crisis include questioning ones’ character, or purpose in life, altering their values to match their relationship, or finding it difficult to answer questions about themselves. Since identity changes throughout life, an identity crisis can occur at any age, but it usually first emerges during teenage years, whereas as individuals grow older, they are more likely to have achieved an identity status. This is because during adolescence, teenagers experience emotional, physical, and social changes, where they begin to explore relationships, and consider different career paths. The pressure to make these important decisions can lead to an identity crisis.
Negative feelings about oneself, or their life, can trigger symptoms of depression, stress, and frustration. Feelings of identity confusion can lead to teenagers exploring in different areas, such as engaging in risky behaviours with drugs, substance addiction and promiscuity. This is because they are more like to be compulsive and conform to the pressure from peer groups since they feel the need to fit in, especially if they feel excluded due to their cultural, ethnic, gender or sexual identity.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, between March and June 2020, when most schools were closed, young peoples’ mental health, and well-being, were significantly impacted, with more pupils reporting that they felt lonely and unhappy. While for some families, extended periods of time together had a positive impact, for others it led to increased conflict. Parents with greater levels of psychological distress are more likely to argue with their family, and their children are more likely to have higher emotional symptoms, and attentional difficulties. There is a strong connection between parent’s mental health and children’s mental health, and during lockdown, some young individuals reported that their depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts stemmed from their abusive relationships with their family.