Health and well being are a big part of everyday life, and mental health is no exception. Mental health has many different meaning to different people. Just like physical health, mental health issues can arise. A mental health issue is a disorder which habitually affects a person’s mood, thinking, and/or behavior and interferes with two or more domains. These issues can come from genetics and environment. For teens, the stress of school work on top of social life can lead to struggles every day in our community. Many teens experience some sort of mental health issue. Anxiety, stress, depression are just a few.
Changing seasons has a strong effect on mental health. SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder, touches many people in the fall and winter months. There are many factors that come into play which cause mental health disorders here in Utah. Our annual inversion is a major contributor to these issues.The lack of sunlight and vitamin D can lead to SAD. Serotonin is a brain chemical which affects mood and behavior. When Serotonin levels decrease, changes in appetite and sleeping occur; this drop can also trigger depression. One effective way to cope with SAD is phototherapy, or light therapy. “Happy lights” mimic natural light for thirty minutes a day, and emit the sun that is missing in the darker months.
People living in Utah are at an especially high risk of developing mental health disorders. Utah is ranked 5th highest nationally in teen suicides. Last year 44 teens between the ages of 10-to-17 took their own lives, a 33% increase from 2016. On January 17th, Utah’s Governor addressed this horrifying statistic and pledged to assemble a task force to “help develop priorities, then report on effective programs, tools and methods in youth suicide prevention in Utah.” The team was given four weeks to come up with solutions in order to present ideas to lawmakers before the General Session ends for 2018.
So how do we, as teens, address this problem? I believe it begins with being open and talking about mental health. It shouldn’t be taboo or embarrassing. We have to abolish the stigma associated with mental health issues. Pretending like they don’t exist doesn’t stop their effects. We are the generation that can do this because we are so affected by it. Mental health issues can be treated, but only if we are willing to admit they exist.