Adolescence is a very crucial period for physical, emotional, mental and social well-being and development. As children grow and reach the adolescence phase, or ‘teenage’, the brain goes through significant developmental changes, that create behavioural patterns and neural pathways that will last until later in life. However, since the brains are still developing, not only are the adolescents more open to positive influences of youth development strategies, behaviour modelling, emotional and social learning; but due to the hormonal changes, they are also more susceptible to depression, and sometimes likely to take reckless decisions which might have repercussions. Adolescents, or teens, become more independent, and they start forming new identities by trying different roles and behaviours. Puberty also occurs during this same phase and brings along with it many emotional and physical changes. Emotional highs and lows may persist and these new behaviours can go beyond boundary-pushing and start causing strain in parent-teen relationships, and can even cause anxiety or depression. These mental and physical changes underline the importance of meeting the emotional, physical and mental health needs of the adolescents, who are filled with queries and confusions. Counselling supports these growing kids with the mental and physical changes that they go through; and can help provide them with a safe space to process their thoughts and emotions, where they are treated with empathy, dignity and respect.
Each phase of a child’s development brings specific challenges, but mental health conditions can make these challenges a lot harder. Every adolescent reacts differently to events in their life, which can be routine as moving to a new house or prolonged and traumatic like the death of a loved one, natural disaster, getting bullied, parental divorce or separation. Stress can be due to worrying over platonic or romantic relationships, disordered eating habits that can harm both physical health and self-esteem of the individual, or indulging in substance abuse to push boundaries. The age and gender of the adolescent can also influence their resilience to life changes, as younger teens find an easier time adjusting to these changes and genetics can also come to play a role as some mental issues like bipolar might run in families. These challenges can cause difficulties at school, home and with friends and family, and it is essential that these adolescents receive counselling, and their thoughts and feelings are heard without criticism or judgement, ensuring it is a safe place where one can be honest about their struggles.
Another important thing to remember is that having counselling or therapy does not mean one’s crazy. At least 1 in every 5 (about 20%) teens has mental health issues, and these issues need the correct treatment, much like how you’d take consultation for a broken bone or a sore throat. Different counselling methods such as individual, group or family therapy can help deal with adolescent problems, where they will be approached as an expert on their life so that they feel comfortable and respected. Its also important to remember that teens can initially be awkward talking about their insecurities and troubles, so they must constantly be reassured that they will receive support and guidance. Adolescence can be a difficult stage and another good course of actions is to also counsel the family and prepare them for responsibilities of parenthood so that they’re better prepared for the changes adolescence brings.