O The future success of adolescents depends on the importance that parents and educators place on their mental health and well-being and on the teachings they pass on to them. This is the main conclusion of the “Guide for parents and teachers: how to support the mental health and well-being of young people? ”, launched by the José Neves Foundation and aimed at parents, family members and teachers who want to know how to identify and act in the face of symptoms and mental health problems in young people.
In addition to an analysis, the guide provides strategies, recommendations and practical exercises that can be very useful.
In a press release, Carlos Oliveira, executive president of the José Neves Foundation, points out that “the current data on the mental health and well-being of the Portuguese are worrying, especially among the youngest, when we know that one in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 19 suffers from mental disorders and that 50% of disorders diagnosed in adults occur in adolescence”.
“Today’s teenagers are tomorrow’s adults and now is the time to take action and promote mental health in this age group. Work that comes from everyone, especially parents and warning signs and leaves a set of recommendations and strategies for parents and teachers to best deal with the situation and be active agents for its resolution,” he adds.
The age group between 10 and 19 is the period of human development where some of the most significant and transformative changes are faced, at the physical, cognitive and socio-emotional levels. These change processes include hormonal and morphological changes, changes in sleep patterns, difficulties in regulating emotions, changes in the importance and nature of relationships with others, and changes in the perception that young people have of themselves.
Emotional and eating disorders are more common in adolescence, and it is estimated that one in seven young people aged 10 to 19 suffer from a mental disorder. When not diagnosed in adolescence, the disorders prevail in adulthood, with only 50% of disorders diagnosed in adults appearing in adolescence. The data also indicates that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among adolescents aged 15 to 19.
The mental health of adolescents has an impact on their lives. Adolescence is therefore a sensitive period of development, during which external events, whether positive or negative, play a decisive role in the future of young people. It is during this period that several forms of mental illness begin to manifest themselves and several factors can influence the development of mental health problems throughout life, whether they are hereditary, capricious, familial, social and cognitive.
In the school context, and aware of the challenges that adolescents face on a daily basis, the guide offers very concrete recommendations for teachers to contribute to greater awareness of mental health in the school environment and to help students. For example, imparting psychological health knowledge, normalizing asking for help, establishing healthy routines and rules in the classroom, and alerting your students to the dangers of new technologies and cyberbullying.
“Parents and educators are the adults who spend the most time with adolescents, playing a decisive role in detecting changes in their behavior and mood and, therefore, in the support and intervention that they can bring and promote,” reads the same press release.
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The guide also points out some warning signs in adolescent behavior that are important for parents and teachers to be aware of: restless and/or restless behavior; confrontational or oppositional behavior towards others; lack of motivation and/or lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy; difficulty concentrating; decline in school performance; Social isolation; fear, constant worry or exaggerated anxiety; frequent feelings of discouragement, sadness and hopelessness; irritable and/or aggressive mood; tiredness, loss of energy or tiredness; low self-esteem.
It presents several recommendations aimed at parents and loved ones of young people, namely: recognizing the importance of mental health; respect the opinion and individuality of the young person; show interest in the life of the young person; encourage young people to be healthy and correct them, but celebrate their achievements. The guide also provides additional strategies, such as demonstrating willingness to help, not minimizing or comparing suffering with others, or normalizing the act of asking for help.
It also leaves resources to help, such as being present; not minimize or compare their suffering; normalize the act of asking for help; to be fowarding something.
And several strategies that can be useful:
- Help young people understand the reasons for their concerns;
- Explain the importance of setting limits and show them the importance of knowing how to say “no”;
- Explain to young people the importance of investing in their personal development;
- Helping to establish certain meditation or relaxation habits (for example: relaxation exercises, exposing how you feel);
- Encourage the youth to spend time with friends and explain the importance of establishing good relationships with peers/friends;
- Help young people develop strategies to regulate negative emotions and thoughts;
- Raise young people’s awareness of the dimension and impact of good sleep hygiene, healthy eating and the importance of physical exercise;
- Seek professional help whenever needed.
If you suffer from a mental illness, have thoughts of harming yourself, or just need someone to talk to, you should see a psychiatrist, psychologist, or GP. You can also contact one of these entities:
SOS Voz Amiga (between 4 p.m. and midnight) – 213 544 545 (Free call)
– 912 802 669 – 963 524 660
Friendly conversation (between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m.) – 808 237 327 (free number) and 210 027 159
Student SOS (between 8 p.m. and 1 a.m.) – 239 484 020 – 915246060 – 969554545
Telephone of Hope (between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.) – 222 080 707
Telephone of the Friendship (between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m.) – 228 323 535
All these contacts guarantee the anonymity of the caller and the answering machine. In SNS24 (808 24 24 24 – then you need to select option 4), the contact is made by health professionals. The SNS24 line operates 24 hours a day.