What I wish I’d known about Mental Health as a teenager

It amazes me how much Mental Health topics are still very much a taboo. Symptoms of various Mental Health disorders have touched almost every member of my family and friend group.

Despite my OCD rearing it’s very unwelcome head when I was about 10, it wasn’t until I was an adult when it was recognised that my Mental Health required treatment. I wish I’d know about Mental Health as a teenager and how important it was to take care of your mind with the same care you’d take with another important part of your body.

We are making huge strides in regards to recognising and treating mental health symptoms, but it is still children and teenagers that are struggling to get the help they need. Parents are still not aware of the signs of Mental Health struggles and schools are tied by various red tape in what they can offer without formal diagnoses.

What I wish I knew about Mental Health as a teenager.

You are not the only one. It can feel like you’re the only person in the world to ever feel the way you are feeling. This in turn can prevent you speaking to others about how you feel, as you may worry they won’t understand, or they may laugh. But more people than you realise will have experienced some symptoms of mental health problems.

Adults don’t always know the right thing to say. “If you think you have mental health problems you don’t.” This statement was a gem of a statement told to me my an adult when I was a teenager, after I had been diagnosed with severe OCD and Panic Disorder. It made me feel like what I was experiencing wasn’t valid and that in some way I was exaggerating my symptoms. Your feelings are valid, your thoughts and the processes you go through due to your thoughts are valid. Taking care of your mental health is so important and if you feel you are struggling with taking care of it, then try and speak to someone understanding.

Panic attacks can make you feel like you are dying. Anxiety/panic attacks are awful. Your heart races, you can feel dizzy, sweaty, foggy and like you are dying. The first time you experience one you may mistake it for the end. But anxiety attacks do pass and even reduce over time if exposed to what is causing the anxiety attack. They are linked to our flight or fight reactions and are something our brain triggers to help us either flee danger or fight danger, even if there isn’t actually any current danger.

Your mental health can be cared for. It is easy to fear that once you start experiencing mental health issues that you are going to experience them for the rest of your life. But there are lots of things we can do to take care of our mental health, just the same as taking care of our physical health. I found music and reading really helped me during my darker days and exercising is great for improving mental health. I know exercising can seem so daunting when you’d rather hide yourself from the world. But just a walk round the block or some YouTube Yoga in your bedroom can have a huge impact on how you feel.

There are many sources available for help. Our brain has a funny way of convincing us that nobody cares and nobody wants to help us. Even if you find your friends and family unsupportive or caring, there are other ways to contact people and professionals that are able to offer help. The Samaritans offer someone to talk to that will listen without judgement 24/7, just call 116 123.

More and more campaigns are being launched every day trying to promote the importance of self care and taking take of young people’s mental health. But if you are a parent reading this, it is important to remember to be a supportive, understanding adult that is willing to truly listen. We don’t choose Mental Health problems, so blaming tech, the games teens play, friends they associate with, music they listen to, doesn’t help support the teen experiencing the symptoms. The best thing you can do for a child/teen is be there for them and show them how much you care about helping them work on improving their mental health.

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

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