The Palo Alto Medical Foundation recently did a survey on teens in California, called Teen Poll – For Emotions and Life, asking teens two significant question: what issue about your mental health most concerns you? And what issue about your mental health most concerns your parents?
The reason for the study was to take measurement on the major issues that affect teens. There is an explosion of brain development during adolescence which influences teenage behavior and relationships. And this explosion of exploration, maturation, and growth can be painful at times. This burst of change can bring some painful consequences.
But let’s first look at the positive changes happening for teens: A teen has a heart full of emotions. Although this can lead to moodiness, it points to the explosion of life that is happening within. Along with this growth in the brain, a teen wants to be surrounded by connection with others. Too much isolation could lead to risky behavior, poor decision-making, and perhaps even mental illness, such as depression. Strong friendships and relationships with family can support healthy adolescent growth. With a fiery mind and heart, full of emotions and curiosity, the teen is likely going to be creative and innovative. Although curiosity can lead an adolescent in directions that don’t support his or her overall growth, that curiosity also supports his or her discovery of self, which is a necessary task at this stage in life.
These are the positive changes that are going on during adolescence. However, these changes can bring growing pains. And some of these growing pains are listed in the survey described below. Of the 999 surveys completed between October 2007 and August 2012, the numbers below indicate the amount of surveys as well as the percentage of the total surveys that provided that particular response.
As a teen, what issue about your mental health most concerns your parents?
Depression/loneliness – 219, 22.7%
Transition into middle school – 12, 1.2%
Transition into high school – 32, 3.3%
Transition into college – 42, 4.3%
Transition to adulthood – 74, 7.7%
Academic stress – 157, 16.3%
Violent relationships and/or bullying – 37, 3.8%
Home environment (setting a good example) – 53, 5.5%
Character development – 75, 7.8%
Developing a strong, healthy work ethic – 52, 5.4%
Sexual risk taking – 97, 10.0%
Developing healthy relationships – 46, 4.8%
Managing emotions – 7, 0.7%
Eating or physical activity habits – 4, 0.4%
Self-acceptance – 1, 0.1%
Other – 58, 6.0%
As a teen, what issue about your mental health most concerns you?
Depression/loneliness – 324, 34.2%
Transition into middle school – 8, 0.8%
Transition into high school – 26, 2.7%
Transition into college – 27, 2.8%
Transition to adulthood – 43, 4.5%
Academic stress – 114, 12.0%
Violent relationships and/or bullying – 38, 4.0%
Home environment – 27, 2.8%
Character development – 63, 6.6%
Developing a strong, healthy work ethic – 26, 2.7%
Sexual risk taking – 79, 8.3%
Developing healthy relationships – 106, 11.2%
Managing emotions – 10, 1.1%
Eating or physical activity habits – 1, 0.1%
Self-acceptance – 5, 0.5%
Other – 51, 5.4%
If you’re a teen, the above information might be useful. For instance, if you’re also struggling with depression, you might not feel so alone. You can see that 34% of the total surveys listed depression as the issue that was most concerning to a teen. And the issue that was most concerning their parents, according to those teens, was also depression.
Also, there are some very normal changes that can be difficult for many teens, such as the survey indicates. The transitions into middle and high school were also high on the list as the most concerning.
Knowing this can be reassuring for both you and your parents. Although adolescence can be challenging, teens are not going through those challenges alone.