Mental Health: Prevention and Access to Support

The problems teenager encounter in the face of new experiences, such as the transition from high school to university and how technologies and social media have impacted how people interact, are of incredible importance in our society today. These issues can generate mental problems in the long-term. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that it is important to raise awareness on this issue and encourages those that work in the field to execute activities that promote and protect adolescents’ health. WHO reports confirmed that 50% of all mental illness begin by the start of adolescence and the first effect, among teenagers, is a result of the use of alcohol and drugs that conduce to risky behaviours such as dangerous driving and unsafe sex.

The second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds is suicide and the third leading indicator of mental illness among teenagers is depression. WHO recognises that prevention of this is key and fundamental to managing this problem. Building resilience is important in order to avoid the rise and spread of mental illness among young people as it flanks the private and public sectors, giving directives for better management in preventing this issue. Governments and universities should act appropriately, for instance, the University of Leeds is doing their part in terms of prevention through counselling and promoting well-being, giving its students the opportunity to reach out for help through the numerous services it offers.

Mental Health First Aid, one of the leading organisations in this field, prepared a toolkit aimed at the sensitization of young people for the World Mental Health Day 2018 – which was on October 10th – offering useful tips and advice on the subject and using the hashtag #HandsUp4HealthyMinds to spread awareness, participation and healthy behaviours.

Moving the focus of mental health away from young people and addressing this in a broader sense, we notice the difficulties to accessing mental care which some groups of people face. It is the case for Black people and people from ethnic minority groups, as BBC news reported. These groups find themselves in a position of inequality, receiving worse treatments and lack of much needed support. There are some characteristics that are particular to these groups, such as culture, language, stigma and religion issues, that result in additional barriers to accessing the mental healthcare system. Sometimes, BME people don’t want to expose a problem because they fear unequal treatments; other times, they do not recognize some of these mental health problems because their culture normalises them. This suggests that it is important to always consider the context when an argument is evaluated. The BBC also affirms that there is very little research in the field and that universities and research centres should make efforts to take more care and investigate more deeply into this problem.

Consolidating all that was said above, mental health problems tend to start during one’s adolescence and the ongoing changes in society aren’t helpful in solving this issue but instead accentuate them. There are general prevention measures that need to be adopted to manage the problem and collaborative action should be in place by leading organisations and figures in the field. It’s more concerning for some groups and there is a lack of information regarding this issue.

Thus, I leave you a few questions to consider. How do we define the problem in terms of social differences? Do technologies affect mental health and in what ways? Can we see the changes they have brought in our daily lives? How do we raise awareness among teenagers, starting from our personal lifestyle and behaviour?

Personally, I believe that it is by attempts at making sense of the facts that awareness emerge.


Valeria Spinello



Image: See Me Scotland