Teens pay particular attention to social interaction. They have their eye on what’s hot, trendy, and stylish. And they want to be a part of what everyone else is doing – unless it’s their parents having the fun. In general, adolescents want to be a part of the cool crowd – whoever that might be for them.
But what if you or a friend has a mental illness? How does fit in with what’s cool? How does mental illness fit in with being okay in everyone else’s eyes?
The truth is that mental illness still comes with a stigma. That is, society tends to judge those that have a mental illness. They tend to be judgmental of those that need psychiatric help and those who take medication for their symptoms. In fact, it is this reason that teens avoid telling their parents or school professionals about what’s going on for them. Stigma of mental illness is the primary reason that keeps teens from getting the mental health support they need. Although a teen might be having suicidal thoughts or feeling the pain of depression or struggling in school because of a psychiatric condition, they will frequently keep it to themselves because they’re afraid of saying anything. They don’t want to be labeled or judged.
About 11% of youth between 9 to 17 years old have a major mental health disorder that results in significant problems at home, school or with peers. That’s about 4 million teens. And less than half of teens with a mental illness get help.
In order to help bring mental illness out of judgment, consider these facts:
- Mental illness arises from complex interactions between a person’s genes and their environment.
- Mental illness does not mean being flawed in any way.
- Mental illness occurs at the same rates around the world.
- Mental illness occurs in all socio-economic groups.
- Mental illness can make life difficult. Hiding mental illness only makes things worse.
If you’re a teen, consider what you would do if you had a mental illness. Would you get the help you need despite the possible judgment of friends? Or would you hide your illness and possibly face psychological consequences later. In fact, with an illness like depression, keeping symptoms to yourself might lead to suicide, which in turn may lead to possibly losing your life.
At the same time, keep in mind that it’s quite possible to get the professional help you need without any of your friends knowing about it. Having a mental illness doesn’t mean that you’re going to dress differently, talk in a weird way, or say something odd. Most everyone won’t even know what you’re going through. Today, there are many tools to help teens get through any mental health challenges they may be facing. For example, teens with mental illness might take medication, see a therapist weekly, and attend a support group. But that doesn’t mean that your friends at school need to know about the ways you’re treating your mental health.
Teens, if you’re struggling with addiction, depression, anxiety, or another psychological illness, don’t let stigma get in your way. Talk to a parent, school counselor, or an adult you trust today.