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Adolescent Mental Health: Leila’s Story
Mental Health
6 Minutes
Two female teenagers sit outside on the ground.

The Adolescent Mental Health Series is brought to you by OPTT.

According to the World Health Organization1, 1 in 6 adolescents aged 10-19 have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Depression and anxiety are among the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents. Additionally, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among teenagers. This issue does not just exist in the United States, an estimated 1.2 million1 youth in Canada are also affected by mental illness however, less than 20% receive treatment.

This series explores the stories, feelings, and insights from teenagers who are battling mental health disorders.

Leila is a student athlete who is managing a schedule of being a full time athlete while also majoring in math. Needless to say, Leila had a rigorous and demanding schedule which resulted in frequent anxiety and panic attacks. She was also feeling incredibly home sick and missed her family because it was her first semester of college.

She was also getting very little sleep because she had early practices at 6am and was therefore waking up at 5am on weekdays. At night, she would do her best to finish her homework and study for upcoming midterms, but a lot of her teammates were socializing and loud at night making it difficult for her to finish her work and get too bad. All of this made her anxiety attacks worse. She knew it had gotten bad enough, and she needed to seek help.

The coaches and athletic program pushed a popular mental health app on all of the athletes insinuating that the app was all that was needed. Leila however, felt as though the app was marketed to her team as an ‘immediate fix’ or a ‘one-stop fix’. The app was a meditation app that the team was encouraged to use in order to promote wellness. Leila attempted to use the app, but when she didn’t experience the ‘immediate fix’ she was told she would have, she began to invalidate her anxiety. She became extremely discouraged and found herself pushing the mental health issues to the sideline.

She appreciated the help that her coaches were attempting to give the team but it did not work for Leila. She instead started suffering from even more anxiety attacks and grew even more frustrated with herself. She felt as though something was wrong with her because the treatment that was being offered was not working. She proceeded to push aside her feelings of anxiety and put on a brave face for the rest of the semester. Eventually got to her breaking point and had to take a break from her sport because her anxiety attacks were getting insufferable.

Leila may have been able to prevent the extent of her anxiety attacks if she had access to a wide variety of education to better understand what she was going through. However, it is not her coach’s fault for insinuating that the wellness app is all she would need to be treated. Learning how to manage her emotions using an app was a great first step.

It is not Leila’s fault. Instead, it is a societal issue in which mental health is still misunderstood. As a society, we need to define a standard in which app stores show users what apps are clinically validated and evidence-based. We also need to educate users to look for those standards and approvals.

The New York Times1 has published, “It’s Life or Death”, mental health in adolescents is a global epidemic that is only getting worse.


What can you do to help an adolescent in need?

The New York Times 1 experts say: “Start a conversation. Be clear and direct and don’t shy from hard questions, but also approach these issues with compassion and not blame. Challenging as it may seem to talk about these issues, young people often are desperate to be heard. At the same time, talking to a parent can feel hard.”


Feeling overwhelmed?

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health or having thoughts of suicide call:


United States

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

800-273-8255 (TALK)


Canada

Kids Help Phone

Text Services: Text "CONNECT" to 686868 (also serving adults)

Chat Services: https://kidshelpphone.ca/live-chat/

Global

Global Resources: https://www.helpguide.org/find-help.htm


In an emergency call 911, go to the emergency room, and get help from a trusted adult.

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