Mental Health

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Mental Health

Serving troubled & at-risk girls.

Girls today are in the middle of a real mental health crisis. Unfortunately, many girls feel uneasy asking for help because of the prevalent stigma or lack of access to affordable and quality healthcare. If left unaddressed, mental health issues can have severe and life-long consequences. Girls with mental health problems tend to disengage from school, extra-curricular and social activities, become involved with unhealthy relationships, self-harm, etc.

Instagram’s impact on teenage girls

A recent investigation from The Wall Street Journal found that for the past three years, Facebook has been conducting studies on how Instagram affects its millions of young users. According to its own research, the media giant found the app to be harmful to a sizable percentage of them, most notably teenage girls.

Mental illnesses are usually due to cognitive, emotional, and physical factors, often caused by environmental stressors, including exposure to trauma and abuse. Dealing with these kinds of issues can lead girls down deeper paths of mental illness. Why? Because girls and young women are faced with more expectations put upon them by society. Instead of enjoying their youth and learning who they are, girls are stressed and overwhelmed. Mental illness can also affect how they behave, think, feel or interact with others.

The media perpetuates the mental health stigma around young women, who often portray teen girls with mental illness or depression as the ‘psycho teens’ or the girls who are troublemakers in school. When mental health conditions affect girls’ mental state, it can result in anger, sadness, and mood swings which means they often become withdrawn from their peers, family members, and friends as well as experiencing low self-esteem. 

Many mental disorders are also linked to self-esteem issues, eating problems like anorexia and bulimia, common in teen girls with mental health issues, but these often go unnoticed or untreated. Many mental disorders are also linked to substance abuse and addiction, affecting girls’ mental state and relationships with family members, friends, and partners.

  • More than a third of teenage girls experience a depressive incident, compared to around 14% of boys. 41% of female high school students reported periods of feeling sad or hopeless within the past year.
  • Mental health issues among youth appear to be increasing. Major depressive events among 12-to-17-year-olds went up by more than 50% since 2005.
  • Suicides among girls ages 10 to 14 tripled between 1999 to 2014, and suicides among girls 15 to 19 doubled from 2007 to 2015. More than 9% of female high school students attempted suicide in the last year, compared to 5.1% of males.
  • More than 63% of gay, lesbian and bisexual youth report feeling persistently sad or hopeless within the last year, and 23% attempting suicide.
  • Attempted suicides were higher among female (9.3%) than male (5.1%) students; higher among white female (7.3%), Black female (12.5%), and Hispanic female (10.5%) than white male (4.6%), Black male (6.7%), and Hispanic male (5.8%) students, respectively.

Credit: AAUW

“More time was spent online, and the online pressures for teen females are more likely to leaName Goes Hered to detrimental effects.”

— JEREMY PIEPER, LICENSED MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST

Types of mental illness in teens

The most common mental illnesses in teens are:

    • Generalized anxiety—Excessive worry about everyday matters
    • Social phobias—Severe feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity in social settings
    • Depression—Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, and/or emptiness

Warning signs of mental illness in teens vary depending on the condition

For most kids, one of the telltale signs is going to be a decline in grades, but there are other warning signs, as well.

Changes in social habits including pulling away from school, friends, and activities that your child has enjoyed participating in in the past could be another warning sign.

Generalized anxiety, social phobias, and depression also have their own unique symptoms.

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Feeling restless, wound up, or on edge
  • Becoming fatigued easily
  • Struggling with concentration
  • Experiencing irritability
  • Feeling muscle tension
  • Having difficulty keeping worry levels under control
  • Struggling with sleep, such as difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep, or not feeling well-rested

Social anxiety disorder symptoms include:

  • Feeling very anxious at the thought of being around others, and struggling to talk to other people
  • Experiencing extreme self-consciousness and fear of humiliation, embarrassment, rejection, or offending people
  • Worrying about being judged
  • Feeling anxious days or even weeks ahead of a social event
  • Avoiding places where other people will be
  • Struggling to make and keep friends
  • Blushing, sweating, or trembling around others
  • Experiencing nausea around other people

And signs of depression include:

  • Feeling persistently sad, anxious, or empty
  • Experiencing hopelessness or pessimism
  • Struggling with irritability
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Losing interest in hobbies or activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Struggling with fatigue or lack of energy
  • Moving and/or talking more slowly than usual
  • Feeling restless
  • Struggling with concentration, memory, and/or decision-making
  • Experiencing unexplained changes in appetite or weight
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide
  • Unexplained aches or pains that don’t go away when treated

How to help a teen who’s struggling

One of the most important things parents and caregivers can do when a teen is struggling is take notice. “About half of all people who experience a mental health condition in their lifetime begin experiencing symptoms before the age of 14, but many family members and teens do not notice them for several years later,” Crawford explains. “One way to help your child is by bringing them to their pediatrician to talk about their anxiety or depression symptoms, create a treatment plan and connect with a mental health professional.”

Other positive recommended outlets are:

  • Exercise
  • Meditation and mindfulness practices
  • Peer support groups

It’s also important to have a supportive, open environment at home. Here’s what Pieper recommends for being vigilant about teen mental health on the front end:

1. Talk often. “Have discussions and be open,” he says. “Creating an environment where people are open about how they are doing, struggling or not, allows safety for sharing.”

2. Listen without judgment. Take their mental health seriously. Nothing shuts down a conversation quicker than when someone says ‘you’re overreacting’ or ‘just give it time.’ Ask questions to fully understand and ask what they need.”

3. Be a screen time role model. Teach, talk about, and model good citizenship on social media rather than banning it, he recommends.

4. Ask specific questions about the teen’s day. “‘How was your day?” can be a good opener but doesn’t often give the information needed,” Pieper notes. “Have fun with it so it doesn’t seem like an interrogation.”

5. Don’t make mental health disorders taboo. “Have discussions or consume media together that shows people overcoming their depression,” Pieper says. “There is a boosting quality to seeing that depression is not the end.”

6. Finally, be present and approachable with your teen. Really put yourself in their shoes. Instead of making assumptions, always leave room for open conversations and discussions, which will be beneficial to everyone.

If you have an emergency situation, please call 911. If there is any information that is not listed or you need help with resources, please call or email us as gethelp@allgirlz.org or (725) 696-7230. We will put you in touch with the right people to help you and your daughter.

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…because every girl should believe she matters.

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