Identifying and Helping Young Adults with Mental Health Issues

Last Updated: 

December 19, 2023

Depression can affect anyone, but it’s prevalent in young people—especially due to the stressful demands of modern life.

In this feature post, we explain the various approaches teachers and employers can take to tackle the UK’s current mental health crisis.

But we also encourage students to reach out to improve their situation with useful insights and guidance.

And that starts with an understanding of what causes depressive issues.

Key Takeaways on Helping Young Adults with Mental Health Issues:

  1. Understanding Depression Causes: Depression in young adults can stem from family issues, bullying, emotional distress, or external factors like news stories, work stress, and social media overuse.
  2. Defining Depression: Depression is more than feeling low; it's a state of despondency that can change personality and, in severe cases, lead to suicidal thoughts. It's important to recognize that it's not something one can simply "snap out of."
  3. Types of Depression: Depression varies in severity and can be categorized into mild, moderate, and severe. Specific types include Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Dysthymia, Prenatal Depression, and Postnatal Depression (PND).
  4. Warning Signs of Depression: Signs include persistent anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, weight changes, insomnia, irritability, fatigue, and suicidal thoughts. Recognizing these signs is crucial for early intervention.
  5. Teacher's Role in Identifying Depression: Teachers should watch for signs like personality changes, isolation, a drop in work quality, and loss of interest in activities. Fostering an open environment and respecting confidentiality can encourage students to open up.
  6. Encouraging Open Discussion: Creating an environment where students feel comfortable discussing their issues can lead to them seeking the help they need.
  7. Seeking Professional Help: Students experiencing mental health issues should be encouraged to seek professional help. Resources like Mind: For Better Mental Health are available for immediate assistance.
  8. Reaching Out for Support: Encouraging young adults to talk to friends, family, or teachers about their struggles with depression is vital. Professional help can be a turning point in managing mental health issues.

The article emphasizes the importance of understanding, identifying, and addressing mental health issues in young adults, highlighting the roles of educators and the value of professional support in tackling these challenges.

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What causes depression?

It can come about due to family difficulties, bullying, emotional distress, or due to family history.

But it’s also caused by outside sources, such as depressing news stories, or stress of joining the workforce and even the overuse of social media. Research now suggests the more teens use the likes of Instagram, the more likely they are to be depressed.

It’s a very serious issue and one that can have a major impact on millions of lives.

And the worst thing anyone can do is sit back and accept the situation, rather than taking steps towards good mental health.

But how can you tell if students at your university are suffering from depression? And what can you do to help? Especially considering young people’s mental health is thought to be “worsening”.

NHS figures from summer 2018 showed that 400,000 young people aged under 18 were in contact with a health service about their mental health problems.

For students reading this, you can ask your university if they have access to a wellbeing provider. But you can start the process yourself by understanding what it is.

Defining depression

Whilst it’s common for everyone to feel “low” from time to time, long-term depression isn’t simply about feeling a bit unhappy.

Nor is it about needing to “snap out of it”.

Depression manifests typically as a feeling of despondency, which can lead to changes in personality.

In severe forms, it can lead to suicidal thoughts and several affect a young person’s quality of life.

Anxiety can be another aspect of a protracted period of depression. And both could suggest other mental health issues, such as bipolar disorder.

What types of depression are there?

There are three categories: mild, moderate, and severe. But there are four types of depressive disorders. These are:

  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): Can occur during the winter months due to a lack of sunlight.
  • Dysthymia: Chronic depression that can last years.
  • Prenatal depression: Occurs during pregnancy.
  • Postnatal depression (PND): Occurs in the weeks and months after birth.

The warning signs of depression

It can be difficult to spot depressive signals amongst students—many people are unwilling to open up about their struggles (in part due to social stigma and embarrassment, or the desire to shoulder the burden themselves).

If you’re a student concerned about your mental health, here are some of the signs of severe depression:

  • Persistent anxiety and constant sadness.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Dramatic changes in weight (and dietary changes to match, such as overeating).
  • Insomnia.
  • Irritability or reckless behaviour.
  • Problems with fatigue.
  • Suicidal thoughts.

If you’re suffering from these, you should seek immediate help.

What teachers can look out for

Teachers can also help by remaining vigilant—keep an eye on your students for any tell-tale signs of depression.

Signs of Depression
Image by Leonardo Valente from Pixabay

The tragic thing is individuals often appear perfectly happy, but may be struggling with depressive issues. There are signs of this to look out for:

  • Personality changes, such as irritability and a lack of concentration.
  • Isolation from friends.
  • A drop in the quality of their work.
  • Lack of interest in activities they previously enjoyed.

And to support students, there are a number of ways to offer guidance. Some of the best techniques are:

  • Fostering an open environment where they feel comfortable opening up about issues.
  • Respecting their right to confidentiality.
  • Encouraging them to talk—make that first step that’ll help the to open up.

If there’s an open discussion in educational institutions, it can encourage individuals to reach out for the help they need—and deserve.

The first step really is making that initial move to challenge the issue. Once a student has come forward, there’s the chance to direct them towards a professional and turn their issues around.

Mental health helpline

Finally, if you’re struggling with mental health issues you can contact Mind: For better mental health immediately.

Or talk to friends and family, or a teacher, to discuss your problems with depression.

Ultimately, don’t be afraid to reach out. There are expert help minutes away and it can be the turning point in your life.

Image by Sasin Tipchai via Pixabay

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