Mental Health Is The Biggest Issue Teens Face Today, New Research Shows

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A new survey from the Pew Research Center found that seven-in-10 teens identified anxiety and depression as a major problem they face, The New York Times reported. While being a teenager has long been synonymous with angst, it's important to distinguish typical teen behavior from anxiety and depression, which are diagnosable mental health conditions. Though issues like bullying, substance use disorder, alcohol consumption, and gang violence were also cited as problems, mental health was found to be the top concern among the 920 teens surveyed. Only 4 percent of teens didn't identify mental health as a concern at all, while 26 percent said anxiety and depression were minor problems.

This research comes on the heels of a recent survey of 400 Nevada teens conducted by Born This Way Foundation, which found that only one-third of non-LGBTQ participants rated their mental health highly. On the other hand, LGBTQ youth were half as likely to rate their mental health highly, were more likely to seek treatment virtually versus in person, and less likely to disclose mental health concerns to a parent or guardian. What's more, lack of access and/or lack of knowledge about where to seek help for mental health issues was identified as a significant barrier to treatment for all teens.

"What teens need most is to know they can express themselves in a safe and nonjudgmental way, and that they will not scare off the listening ear they choose to trust with their thoughts and feelings, whether that is a parent or other trusted adult," Dr. Lindsay Henderson, a psychologist who treats patients virtually via telehealth app LiveHealth Online, tells Bustle.

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Aside from having more pressure than previous generations to perform academically and extracurricularly, teens growing up today have never known a time without social media. Philip Kendall, director of the Child and Adolescent Anxiety Disorders Clinic at Temple University in Philadelphia, told The New York Times that FOMO and the pressure to appear to be living their best lives on social media (which he likened to constant surveillance) can increase anxiety in teens.

Lynn Bufka, an associate executive director at the American Psychological Association, told The New York Times that better mental health screening practices could make a difference. What's more, it's clear that this is necessary. A paper published in APA News & Journals found that children and teens admitted to hospitals for self harm and/or suicide attempts doubled between 2008 and 2015.

Overall, there is still a lack of understanding about mental health, which warrants further investigation and education. "Research to understand factors contributing to these alarming trends is urgently needed," lead author Dr. Gregory Plemmons, an associate professor of pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, said on the APA website.

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Dr. Henderson advises that staying calm is an important part of providing mental health assistance. "If what you hear frightens or alarms you, do your best to stay calm while with them and then seek your own education or support; educate yourself so that you can be the best help possible. Let them know they are accepted and loved no matter what they tell you."

If you want to learn how to better help and support someone struggling with their mental health, you can take a free mental health first aid class through Mental Health First Aid USA.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.