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Why are young people especially vulnerable to mental health problems?

In this video, Lizanne Schweren explains that during puberty many things change inside your body and your life.
LIZANNE SCHWEREN: Let’s start at the beginning. Why are we focusing on mental health, especially in young people? During adolescence many things change in your body, but also in your life. This may make you more vulnerable to mental health problems. I will now explain why this is the case. Adolescence is the transition from childhood to adulthood. This is the phase in which you become more independent from your parents and learn to stand on your own two feet. You go from primary school to secondary school, and from secondary school to sixth form. Gradually, you will have to deal with more and more demands from your environment. Your body changes as well. Around the age of 12 you enter puberty.
Hormones bring about many changes in your body, both on the inside and on the outside. Children will start to look more like adults. They suddenly grow taller, body hair will grow on their legs and under the armpits, and they will grow pubic hair. Girls develop breasts and have their first period. Boys may notice a change in their voice and beard growth. Puberty also comes with some discomforts, such as pimples and sweating. You need to get used to these changes in your body and that can be quite difficult. The hormones of adolescence also cause your brain to develop at high speed. You will start to look at things differently compared to before puberty. Your feelings and behaviours will change.
For example, hormones will fan your interest in sex and can cause mood swings. You may first feel happy, and the next moment be very sad without a particular reason. Some teenagers are drawn to doing risky things in adolescence. For example, they may be tempted to try alcohol or smoking, or to drive too fast on a motorbike. Sometimes this will lead to conflict, for instance, with parents or at school. You no longer want your parents or teachers to tell you what to do or how to behave. Instead, approval of your friends and peers now becomes more important. To understand how all of these changes in emotions and behaviour arise, you need to know a bit more about the brain.
The brain consists of different regions that all have different tasks. For instance, seeing things is organised by a different brain region than remembering things. Yet another brain region is responsible for emotions. During your teenage years, the hormones overactivate this emotion area in the brain. This may explain why adolescents experience more intense emotions compared to children or adults, and why mood swings occur more often. In short, many things change during adolescence. You become more independent, your changing body makes you feel different than before, and you’re interested in different things. You’re right in the middle between childhood and adulthood, and you’re trying to find out who you are.
In the midst of all these changes, you may feel insecure and experience mood swings. This is why in this phase you’re more vulnerable to developing mental health problems. In fact, it is especially during adolescence that mental health problems often occur for the first time. Up to 75% of mental health problems start before the age of 24. Mental health problems during adolescence may also have negative consequences in the longer term. Especially when problems are severe, they can lead to malfunctioning on all sorts of levels, such as at school or in friendships. This, in turn, can make your problems worse or it can make them last longer.
You can find yourself caught in a negative spiral from which it is very difficult to escape. That’s why it’s so important to keep track of your mental health, especially when you’re young.

In this video, Lizanne Schweren explains that during puberty many things change inside your body and in your life. This makes you more vulnerable for developing mental health problems.

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Young People and Mental Health

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FutureLearn - Learning For Life

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