There’s a difference between teenage angst and mental health issues, which is where society gets it wrong. That’s just my opinion, anyways. It was on a bus journey through central London that I saw a teenage girl, who was sit directly in front of me, bearing her cut up arm for all to see. Now I’m not one to shy away from who you are but it really was shocking to see the damage this girl had inflicted upon herself. It led me to think about a certain culture amongst teenagers, whereby their “mental health issues” are encouraged and supported by others on social media channels.
I drew upon the example of Demi Lovato, a well-known singer who battled Bipolar Disorder and Bulimia during her teen years. I’ve seen a frightening number of teenage girls and boys on Twitter, who are pretty much super fans of Demi, drawing on her songs for support of their “cutting” and self-inflicted starvation. Statistics show that around 10% of young people in the UK have a mental health problem at any one time, which leads me to wonder if there is a blurred line between teenage angst and mental health issues. I mean, the likelihood of those 10% all being fans of Demi Lovato is extremely small, yet I see an alarming number of her fans professing to have some form of mental issue.
Now I’m not one of those people that judges others or dismisses their inner anguish because I suffer from depression and anxiety myself. However I can’t help but grow frustrated, as the issues I suffer from will never be fully understood if they are misdiagnosed. It’s important to understand that I’m not blaming these teenagers for saying they have a mental health disorder, nor am I trying to diagnose anybody myself. I’m simply saying that more care needs to be taken before giving out a label, as these are things that stick with people for a very long time. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it’s merely GPs being lazy. Many teenagers go through a prolonged period of feeling miserable and having no energy, which on the surface can easily look like depression. Their hormones are all over the place for a good few years, so it’s extremely dangerous to give them such a powerful label before these have settled.
Not only is there an issue surrounding the idea of hormones but GPs and medical professionals need to understand there has been a dramatic change in culture due to social media. Teenagers are impressionable and if they feel they don’t fit in, it can lead to them seeking out support online. Using the internet day in and day out to find some sort of connection can be really bad for your physical and mental health, as I’ve experienced myself. It’s too easy to come across pictures of people cutting themselves or starving themselves to look thinner, so it isn’t too farfetched to believe that some teenagers who are going through this period of limbo in their lives will get ideas and think this is the way to go about solving their problems. It is for this reason that even more care needs to be taken when GPs are giving a diagnosis to a teenager. Sometimes the individual in question isn’t even given any kind of psychological treatment, in terms of talking, and are just given a course of anti-depressants. To me, this is ridiculous. Not only are you running the risk of altering this young person’s hormone balance forever, you are neglecting every single one of your duties as a medical professional and just adding to the issue.
I believe that GPs need to have full psychological training, so they are able to spot the difference between a teenager who is lost and searching for a place to belong and then the young person who is genuinely suffering from a mental disorder. It is then, and only then, that mental health issues will actually be taken seriously in a society dominated by people trying to hit targets as opposed to caring about people who genuinely need help.