Causes and responses to mental health and addiction in young adults

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Introduction

Mental illness is a huge problem plaguing society, and millions of individuals are affected by mental illness at one point in their lifetime. While some individuals may not be aware that they suffer from the condition, it has debilitating outcomes to all individuals affected as well as the society if unmanaged and untreated. According to a Newsweek report, about 42.5 million adults in America have a mental illness that ranges from conditions such as schizophrenia and depression that are enduring (Bekiempis, 2014). Such a substantial part of the population implies that there are social and economic effects linked to mental illness, with much of the financial costs being tied to lost productivity and healthcare-associated expenses. For most of the adult individuals who have a mental illness, they had depressive or mental health-related conditions as teenagers/young adults. The untreated condition during the period of transition to adulthood may have led to the later emergence of the problem in adulthood, thus highlighting the importance of identifying and responding to mental health issues at an early stage.

For young adults, they face various pressures during their transition period to adulthood, where these pressures and life hurdles lead to mental conditions and addiction. The way that an adolescent transition into adulthood has long-term consequences that determines their vulnerability to mental illness and substance addiction. For most adolescents, they exhibit characteristics of fewer resiliencies, high fragility, and a higher likelihood of being overwhelmed. Adolescents unable to cope with the pressures of this transition period often fall into anxiety and depression that form part of mental illness while others respond to these pressures through substance abuse. The paper that follows identifies such hurdles in the transition process and proposes recommendations in response to such scenarios.

Life Hurdles for Adolescents/Young Adults

Some of the most common mental health conditions affecting adolescents include anxiety and depression, and they emanate from different factors around the adolescent’s life. In 2015, more than 3 million teenagers aged between 12 and 17 had at least one dominant depressive condition, with more than 2 million having depression that impaired their daily functioning (Schrobsdorff, 2016). The same report also highlights that teenagers with anxiety disorder totaled 6.3 million. Such numbers indicate that a high number of teenagers are vulnerable to these conditions and the society is offering little reprieve in the management of mental health.

In the identification of some of the hurdles that these young adults face, Schrobsdorff (2016) identifies that teenagers within this generation are facing a variety of obstacles that include a draining job, schoolwork, career fret, management of a social media identity, racism, sexism, and even worrying about climate change. Schrobsdorff (2016) also identifies the fact that phones and social media have brought the world’s problems closer to these young adults where their low resilience and high fragility leads to depression and anxiety. For some of these teenagers, the source of their mental anguish may come from the inability to go to college that they translate as denoting failure in life. Most teenagers consider college as a rite of passage that will determine their ability to get a well-paying job, and this means that the inability to secure a place in college leaves them depressed and under anxiety. Parents’ socioeconomic standing is also a factor influencing the development of mental illness as a low socioeconomic status means the inability to cater to all the needs of the young adult. Other hurdles that the teenagers face include domestic violence and or failed early marriages as well as the involvement in the crime.

Some teenager facing such life hurdles discussed above move towards substance abuse to cope with their problems, but this ends up exacerbating the problem. On the other hand, there is a mutual interrelationship between drug abuse and mental illness, where one is likely to lead to the other. As such, this presents a situation where substance abuse and addiction leads to mental illness or mental illness leads to addiction. The broader implication is therefore that there can be no extrication of the symptoms of addiction and mental illness from one another. In explaining how mental illness and addiction interrelate, researchers identify that the persistence of depression for months leads to chemical changes in the brain that impact the ability to make sound decisions. For such adolescents, they begin acting on impulse rather than rationality, and this decision-making approach leads to indulgence in alcohol and drug use. Addiction comes about from the inability by the adolescents to weigh the risks associated with substance abuse. The most common type of addiction relates to alcohol and marijuana, where marijuana becomes the gateway to other hard substance abuse.

Responses to Mental Illness and Addiction in Young Adults

In responding to a mental illness affecting young adults in their transition to adulthood, there is a need to ensure that mental health and addiction services are ‘youth friendly’ (Hawke et al., 2017). The need for a youth-friendly atmosphere in offering mental health treatment and preventive interventions is informed by the fact that the youths associate mental illness with older populations. For the young adults, the perception may be that the services offered are not responsive to their immediate needs. As discussed in the paper, youths have less resilience and high fragility that increases their susceptibility to mental health conditions and addiction. In essence, the application of youth-friendly services such as using young professionals aware of the turmoil that the particular generation is facing will help in ensuring the effectiveness of the mental health responses.

Another approach and as part of making mental health services is such as the use of social media to disseminate information on preventative strategies to mental conditions and addiction as well as where to seek the necessary services as may be needed by a teenager. Young people have poor help and health-seeking behavior that may come about due to the insidious and slow emergence of the problem, individual denial of the problem, stigma, and lack of early identification of the condition. Importantly, social media as a platform highly used by teenagers can be used to disseminate information on preventative actions during this transition period as well as where to seek intervention services. With the teenage years characterized by the transition process, there is little knowledge on the boundaries between normal psychological and emotional functioning linked to the transition period and symptoms of mental health conditions. As such, social media should be a platform for engagement of the youths in ensuring they understand the manifestation of the problem and necessary intervention.

As part of the recommendation on self-help approaches, an engagement of the youths especially in the education process can help inform them on self-help intervention approaches. One of the aspects compounding the problem of mental illness is that social media and the internet has been a platform that drives the anxiety level of teenagers high due to their perceived social status level. The interventions necessary include highlighting the adverse effects of overindulgence in social media and the internet usage and the failure to engage in physical communications. Self-help approaches that can be emphasized in this regard include dissemination of information on the importance of physical, social interactions over virtual interactions. As a preventative and self-help approach, face to face interactions helps to alleviate possible mental issues and also improve the likelihood of early identification, especially by family members.

Conclusion

Young adults face various pressures during their transition period to adulthood, where these pressures and life hurdles lead to mental conditions and addiction. The way that an adolescent transition into adulthood has long-term consequences that determine their vulnerability to mental illness and substance addiction. For most adolescents, they exhibit characteristics of less resiliency, high fragility, and a higher likelihood of being overwhelmed. Adolescents unable to cope with the pressures of this transition period often fall into anxiety and depression that form part of mental illness while others respond to these pressures through substance abuse. Some of the life hurdles driving mental illness and addiction in adolescents include stressors such as the need to fit in, low socio-economic status, failure to make college, family and relationship stressors among others. Responses by these individuals to their problems include substance abuse that leads to the exacerbation of the problem through addiction. Responses to mental health conditions should involve offering youth-friendly services, using social media to disseminate information, and emphasizing social interactions over social media use.

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  1. Bekiempis, V. (2014). Nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from mental illness each year. Newsweek, February 28, 2014. Retrieved from http://www.newsweek.com/nearly-1-5-americans-suffer-mental-illness-each-year-230608.
  2. Hawke, L., Kristin, C., Cara, S., Rice, M., and Henderson, J. (2017). Youth friendliness in mental health and addiction services: protocol for a scoping review. BMJ Open, 7(9). Doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-017555.
  3. Schrobsdorff, S. (2016). Teen depression and anxiety: Why the kids are not alright. Time, October 27, 2016. Retrieved from http://time.com/4547322/american-teens-anxious-depressed-overwhelmed/.
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