It’s a good time to consider all of the facets of mental health. Happily, I feel that families, communities, schools, organizations and governments are getting better at recognizing signs, symptoms and remedies.
Even though some stigma remains, more people understand that mental health challenges are common. In fact, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health:
- 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally face a mental health problem or illness
- 8% of Canadians will experience major depression in their lives
- Mental health affects people of all ages, education levels, incomes and cultures
Regarding kids, many wonder why suicide rates for children, teens and young adults seem to be increasing* and why more children (even those as young as 8) seem to be experiencing more stress than in generations past. What might the reasons be?
From reading, research and speaking with other parents and experts, here are three top-line theories:
The Sleep Factor
- Children, teens and adults are getting far less sleep than in prior generations. Whether it’s due to the blue light from our devices, the lure of 24/7 streaming content, being overwhelmed with homework or answering emails, or parents not enforcing strict bedtimes for younger children, we all could use more shut-eye.
- Sleep allows us to heal our bodies and minds and to recharge for the day to come. It also helps regulate breathing and blood pressure. Without consistent, regular sleep and sleep patterns we put extra stress on our mental health and well-being.
The Failure Factor
- Over the past year, I’ve read more and more about how parents’ inability to let our children fail and experience disappointment is hindering their ability to be successful later in life.
- While we may think we’re doing our kids a favor by protecting them from, say, losing a race or failing a test or not making the cheerleading team, it’s important that children understand how to fail. When a child gets a D on their math quiz or is not invited to the dance, she might learn how to do things differently next time and, at the same time, build resilience which can help her deal with future disappointment.
The Comparison Factor
- Personally I think adults are just as at-risk of this as children or teens. In our social and social media-infused world, we can’t help but compare ourselves to our next door neighbour who just returned from a spontaneous trip to Italy or to our colleague who is taking a year off to write a novel.
- I’m not at all against social media (in fact, I’m a huge fan) but it can be extremely detrimental when we (or our children) are feeling vulnerable. It’s difficult to remember that people are more than their social media profiles and that most only post the best of their lives – not the tedious chores or the endless amounts of homework or the fight they just had with their sibling.
- Comparing ourselves to our friends, classmates, or colleagues can bring on feelings of anxiety, inadequacy, depression and doubt. For parents, talking to our kids about social media and its implications and limiting the use of personal devices and video gaming can be beneficial.
Do any of these theories about modern-day mental health resonate with you? Are you aware of your kids’ mental health on a regular basis? Do you speak with them about stress or social media or suicide? I’d love to learn about your own theories and advice.
Feel free to comment on this post or write to me.
*Note: The web site linked to teen suicide includes some disturbing content