Raising awareness for youth mental health

Mental health is a hot topic at the moment. Indeed, in the past few years there has been a greater focus on mental health conditions and how these can impact everything from an individual’s general wellbeing to their work and social lives and more.

However, while this is certainly a big step in the right direction in terms of awareness and understanding, often when there is a discussion about mental health it tends to focus on adults. But what about the mental health of children and young adults and the challenges this presents?

Youth Mental Health Day

September 7 is Youth Mental Health Day 2021 in the UK, and a perfect opportunity to bring this issue into the spotlight. This awareness day has been created by stem4 – a charity that is dedicated to supporting positive mental health in teenagers and which provides education, early intervention and resilience strategies to those affected and their families.

Mental health disorders among children and young adults are far more common than you would probably imagine. In 2004, a study found that 1 in 10 children aged 5-15 were suffering from a mental health condition. Fast-forward to the present day and this figure has risen significantly to 1 in 9 (1 in 8 if we take into account those aged 5-19).1

While we cannot assume there is one sole reason for this, it is likely that factors such as the pandemic will have made an impact, meaning that a large number of youths in the UK are suffering from mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression at this time.

Offering support

But what can dental hygienists and dental therapists do to help these individuals?

As with a lot of conditions, awareness can help. By working with your team to observe Youth Mental Health Day and pooling together to raise funds, you can know that you have made an impact. It is also a good opportunity to have a candid conversation with your younger patients to see how they are generally feeling and whether they are undergoing high stress or problems at this time. As you will probably be aware, mental health conditions can significantly impact oral health. This is especially true if they manifest as eating disorders or as severe depression, both of which may lead to behaviours such as purging (which will erode tooth enamel) or neglect, which will be evident by very poor oral hygiene. Catching these signs early could be key to helping people in this vulnerable age group, so it is always a smart idea to be vigilant.

Youth mental health is just as significant as adult mental health, which is precisely why raising awareness and doing our bit is so important. No matter whether you want to collect funds to donate to a charity that supports youth mental health or take this opportunity to discuss mental health more candidly with your patients (or both!) Youth Mental Health Day is an important date to put in your calendar.

Image courtesy of NappyStock

1.  Mental Health Foundation. What New Statistics Show About Children’s Mental Health. Link: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/what-new-statistics-show-about-childrens-mental-health [Last accessed June 21].

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