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Promoting Youth Mental Health by Dr Jennifer McMahon


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Dr Jennifer McMahon, Univeristy Limerick, Psychology Matters Day

Mental health is everyone’s business and young people are most at risk of psychological distress and mental disorder. What we term the age of onset of mental health disorder, the years when disorders first emerge, is between 14 and 24. What is key is that mental health problems are treatable and the first step to treatment is seeking out help. Help-seeking is lower in Ireland than in other European countries due to mental health stigma. Best practice is to use peer support and connect young people with one another. In this talk, different ways of connecting with others are outlined, strategies to promote positive mental health are provided and normalising mental health is discussed.

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Promoting Youth Mental Health by Dr Jennifer McMahon

  1. 1. Promoting Youth mental Health Dr. Jennifer McMahon University of Limerick
  2. 2. Teenage Storm and Stress • Mood Disruptions • Risky Behaviour • Emotions • New Media • Self-Control • Relationships
  3. 3. The Teenage Brain Blakemore, S. J. (2008). The social brain in adolescence. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(4), 267.
  4. 4. Erikson, E. H. (1994). Identity: Youth and crisis (No. 7). WW Norton & Company.
  5. 5. Self Concept Pick up dress from Amy Rosenberg, M. (1985). Self-concept and psychological well-being in adolescence. The development of the self, 205-246.
  6. 6. Adolescent Self-Concept Self Concept Domains Examples of Adolescent Self Descriptions Scholastic Achievement I do school work quickly. I do well in school Intellectual Ability I’m just as smart as other people Athletic Competence I am good at new sports Behavioural Conduct I don’t get into trouble. I act the way I’m supposed to act Close friendships I share things with my close friends Romantic Appeal I believe that I am fun and interesting Job Competence I have the skills to succeed at part-time jobs Physical Appearance I like the way I look
  7. 7. What is Mental Health? Mental Health refers to a broad array of activities directly or indirectly related to the mental well-being component included in the WHO's definition of health: – "A state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease". It is related to the promotion of well-being, the prevention of mental disorders, and the treatment and rehabilitation of people affected by mental disorders. Good Poor
  8. 8. What is Youth mental Health? Young persons definition: “If youth is a journey, then youth mental health is the feeling that the road ahead is clear, that you can negotiate whatever obstacles may arise, and you’re on your way towards a definite destination. That destination may change umpteen times by the age of 22 or 23, but the point is that you know you’re going somewhere.” Tim (Youth Advisor – Headstrong) The WHO (2005, p.7) defines adolescent mental health as: “… the capacity to achieve and maintain optimal psychological functioning and well-being. Picture copyright of Jigsw
  9. 9. Incident YLD rates per 1,000 population by age and broad disease grouping Victoria, 2001. The overall per capita burden from non-fatal disease and injury increases with age, with peaks in childhood and early adulthood (figure). Mental disorders are by far the most important cause of disability for 20–50 year olds and account for the majority of the non-fatal burden in early adulthood, after which the contribution of this group of conditions decreases. Almost 75% of all mental disorders first emerge between the ages of 15 and 25 (Hickie, 2004; Kessler et al, 2005; Kim-Cohen et al, 2003).
  10. 10. Depression ©Headstrong, 2012 Anxiety Stress
  11. 11. Supporting Positive Mental Health Parents ✓ Open and Honest ✓ Be Authoritative – clear about standards ✓ Assure them you will always support them ✓ Be sensitive & monitor but NEVER invade ✓ Take Active Roles in the lives of young people ✓ Have a sense of humour ✓ Don’t talk down to them ✓ Initiate conversation – be proactive ✓ Research indicates that having ‘one good adult’ (My World, 2012) to open up to can be a significant protective factor for young people ✓ for many this is a parent but it can also be any adult that takes a supportive role in the young persons life e.g. teacher, uncle, sports coach etc..
  12. 12. Good Adults In research participants felt that good adults: ✓ respects you and demands respect; ✓ is trustworthy; ✓ is understanding and reasonable; ✓ needs to see them as capable of making good choices Supporting Positive Mental Health Adapted from ‘What Helps/ Outcomes and Analysis report by the DYCA, 2009
  13. 13. Risk & Protection Youth Mental Health
  14. 14. Increasing positive emotions • Expressive Writing • Gratitude • Flow • Character Strengths
  15. 15. Take Home Message
  16. 16. Thoughts & Questions? @jennytalkspsych
  17. 17. Support Services • Pieta House • Jigsaw • Spun • CAMHS/HSE