BMJ – 24 September 2014 – Dr Alex Horne: The expense of neglecting adolescent mental health
The adolescent experience, when it gets an airing in the media, is often portrayed as an angst filled, difficult time. However, most adolescents are just getting on with growing up, studying hard, and finding out about life in undramatic non-shocking ways. Indeed, 90% of adolescents complete the transition to adulthood successfully and without posing any mental health challenges or untoward parental challenges. GPs and parents should therefore be alert to any considerable mood changes as serious indicators of possible mental health problems.
When an adolescent “goes off the rails” it is usually obvious to those around them; irritability, anxiety, social withdrawal, inexplicable challenging behaviour, or a plunge in academic achievement are all big indicators. This may leave everyone feeling uneasy and unsure of how to respond or what to say. Fear of upsetting the young person and uncertainty over whether a behaviour change is “just an adolescent thing,” distress, or a sign of mental illness, leave concerned adults looking on with a sense of helplessness. If everyone involved just skirts around the changes, then all sorts of ideas can grow in everyone’s minds about how dangerous or unstable the young person is becoming, which just adds to the general anxiety…
Alex Horne is the consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Nightingale Hospital.
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