Youth Mental Health Shouldn’t be a Second Thought - Medshield
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Youth Mental Health Shouldn’t be a Second Thought

Posted in Medshield Wellness   |   June 3rd, 2019

June is Youth month. A fantastic time for introspection and celebration of all our country’s young people. During this period we pay homage to the Soweto youth of 1976, honouring their sacrifices while also bringing the youth of today’s potential for being catalysts of change to the forefront of national consciousness.

More often than not, conversations about youth upliftment are geared towards the tangible. Topics like better education, skills refinement, empowerment programmes, sports development and nutrition take centre stage, with very little attention given to intangible factors that affect the youth’s ability to fulfil their potential. Things like mental health. Yet now, more than ever, mental health issues and deteriorating states of mind in young people are gaining prominence as causes for concern.

According to The South African National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey of 2018, 20% of South African teenagers suffer from some form of mental health issue, with the majority going untreated or undetected. The study also found that just over 24% of learners between Grade 8 and Grade 11 had experienced depression and feelings of hopelessness, while a further 21% had attempted suicide at least once. The South African Depression and Anxiety Group also found that in the 15-24 age group, suicide is the second leading – and fastest growing – cause of death.

So, how do we help our future leaders overcome these challenges and build a better tomorrow?

The first step is to understand where mental disorders come from and the tell-tale signs of these issues at play.

Non-genetic mental illnesses manifest in different ways, generally brought on by peer pressure, family problems, exam stress, fear of the future, confusion about sexual orientation, bullying (both real-world and cyber), poverty, low self-esteem, negative body image etc. These situations can engender a range of problems that affect mood, thinking and behaviour. Examples of which include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance addiction
  • Self-mutilation
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Panic disorder

Individuals may become withdrawn from family and friends, have severe mood swings uncharacteristic of their behaviour or personality, perform poorly in school or lose interest in extra-curricular activities and sports. If untreated, greater complications can arise; such as physical violence against others, dropping out of school/university or rapid weight gain or loss, which may persist into adulthood.

Although early detection is ideal, at Medshield we believe that there’s no better time to help young people overcome these problems than right now, no matter how far along they may be. Here are some simple things to do if you, or someone you know, might be dealing with a mental health issue.

  1. Speak Up
    Opening up about personal struggles or fears lets the people you care about know that you’re going through something difficult. As a result, they have a better understanding of what you’re dealing with and can help you accordingly. It’s also the first step to getting better and building a more positive mindset. In speaking to others, the weight that you’re carrying is slowly lifted off your shoulders as people carry the load with you and provide love and support. They can also help you seek professional help if so required. If speaking to loved ones feels impossible, talk to a guidance counsellor or qualified professional who won’t share what you’re going through without your consent.
  2. Be Encouraging…
    … of yourself and of others whenever you feel down. Focus on all the wonderful qualities about yourself and all the things that make you special. Write them down if you need to – after all, seeing is believing. Alternatively, if someone you know shares their mental health concerns with you, be supportive and listen attentively. Listening is helping. In many instances, young people are looking for someone who will listen, empathise and not dismiss their feelings, which helps them a great deal.
  3. Join a Support Group
    Sometimes it helps to know that you aren’t alone. Joining a group with like-minded individuals dealing with the same issues provides a platform to share your struggles and be understood. You may also discover answers to your own problems based on someone else’s experiences. Accompanying someone to a support group is also a great way to show your support for their struggles and let them know that they aren’t alone

In some instances, professional medical help may be required. Each of Medshield’s 7 Benefit options has a liberal Mental Health In-Hospital benefit, all offering a range of different treatment options and support.

Additionally, Medshield provides its members with education and information when they join the Scheme’s disease management programme. A care manager who is trained to provide members with the specific support they require is assigned to the member to review their treatment plan and to provide practical and professional advice on how to improve their quality of life.

Medshield Member Mental Health Statistics

  • 5 758 (3.5%) of Medshield members are registered for Mental Health Disease Management
  • 75% of these are Depression related
  • R47 million paid in Mental Health benefits for Jan-July 2018
  • 70% of the spend was reimbursed to Mental Health Institutions, Clinical Psychologists and Psychiatrists

Good mental health allows the youth to cope with whatever life throws at them and to grow into well-rounded, healthy adults. Medshield is here to help make that possible. Get in touch today for more information on how we can support you and your family with a mental health concern.

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