Teenage Years are Far From Carefree
As part of his weekly health column, Dr. Roger Brown, Private GP at Kingsbridge Private Hospital, shares his insight into the impact of stress on the mental health of teenagers.
All of us have been teenagers - some of us remember it well! While it’s a happy time in so many ways, teenage years also bring their own pressures.
As young people develop into adults they go through physical, hormonal, emotional and many other changes, and their self-awareness is very acute.
Stressful exams happen at the same time as important life choices have to be made, while new temptations lead many to experiment with alcohol and drugs.
Teenagers don’t have the life skills to know how to cope, so it’s not surprising they can become absorbed and burdened with the pressures of life and experience mental health problems like depression, self- harming, self-loathing or low self- esteem, anxiety, stress and so on.
A recent report from CAMH.org reported that 10% (20% in the US!) of 5 to16 year olds have experienced some sort of mental health issue. A serious lack of services for adolescents who fall between paediatric and adult services is therefore highly concerning.
I have seen young people in crisis admitted to the very few available psychiatric beds a 3 or 4-hour drive away, which is not ideal for the patient or their family. So what can we do to help these young people and their families face such a stressful and testing time?
The CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) teams do a fine job trying to manage despite a lack of funding, resources and support - an issue which I am pleased is being recognised on the political agenda as we approach the impending General Election.
I am also delighted to hear of a new crisis response service by the Northern Board which is just starting to provide acute care for young people between Antrim and the Causeway area. This needs to be repeated all over Northern Ireland, along with psychiatric beds for these young people.
Support from the voluntary sector is vital, with faith-based and other young people's organisations providing counselling and support for teenagers who reveal their problems in these settings.
If you have problems yourself or have a teenager going through this kind of trauma, please contact Young Minds Helpline on 0808 802 5544 (9.30am-4 pm, Monday- Friday), your school’s Nursing or Guidance team, or your local GP or GP out of hours service.
Find out more from www.youngminds.org.uk or www.camh.org.uk and please consider adding your name to youngminds.org.uk/keepyourword to ask our politicians to keep their election promises to improve young people's mental health services.
The private sector has also been plugging the gap for some years now and experts in this area are available for consultation at 3fivetwo Healthcare. We have seen too many adolescent suicides to let this pass unnoticed!
Dr. Brown is a Private GP at Kingsbridge Private Hospital Belfast, available from 9-8pm Monday to Friday and 9-5pm Saturday.
Find out more about the 5-star Kingsbridge Private Hospital.