Connect with us


Mental health matters: Understanding the challenges faced by adolescents in India



By Ashwika Kakar

The famous quote by American fantasy and romance writer Laurel K. Hamilton, “There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds,” highlights the importance of mental health.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), mental health refers to a person’s psychological, emotional, and social well-being, which affects what they feel, think, and how they behave. Thus, being healthy is not only about being physically active, but also taking care of our overall wellness and happiness.

Unfortunately, the latest survey conducted by India’s National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) reveals that nearly 150 million Indians are suffering from one or more mental health disorders. Moreover, UNICEF, a UN organisation, in its ‘World Children’s Report,’ has reported that one in every seven young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years in India has reported some form of poor mental health, such as feelings of depression or disinterest.

Adolescence is a crucial period for developing social and emotional habits that are important for mental well-being. India is home to the largest number of adolescents globally, comprising about a fifth of its population, which is around 243 million. A meta-analysis reports that 6.5% of the community and 23.3% of school-going students are struggling with mental health issues.

What can affect a person’s mental health?

There are multiple factors, including exposure to adversities, pressure to conform to peers and explore their identity, and the media’s role that can cause a disparity between an adolescent’s lived reality and their aspirations for the future. Other factors include violence (like bullying), harsh parenting, and the pressure to fulfill their parents’ dreams and expectations, which can take a toll on them physically or mentally.

The above-mentioned factors can lead to different types of mental disorders like emotional disorders, which include anxiety, the most prevalent disorder in this age group. Depression is also a common mental health disorder in teenagers and shares similar symptoms with anxiety, including unexpected mood changes among others.

Moreover, behavioural disorders, like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are also common and can lead to destructive and challenging behaviour, which later affects an adolescent’s education. Eating disorders like bulimia nervosa are also prevalent, which involves abnormal eating behaviour accompanied by concerns about body weight and shape. Psychosis, comprising hallucinations or delusions, can impair an adolescent’s ability to participate in daily life and education. Suicide and self-harm also entail harmful use of alcohol, childhood abuse, and stigma against help-seeking. Digital media is prevalent nowadays and can play a pivotal role in either enhancing or weakening suicide prevention efforts.

There are various strategies that have been and are being applied globally, but ultimately it comes down to the family, school, and most importantly, the individual’s own will to accept themselves as they are.

Each person is unique in their way, which makes them special in their way. As beautifully stated by professor of psychology Noam Shoancer, “Mental health is not a destination but a process. It’s about how you drive, not where you are going.”