Teen Mental Health

Mental health is an area that is easily neglected, and feelings of burn out in jobs and family life are all too common in today’s world. Learning to take care of yourself and monitor your mental health is something that can start at an early age. IWK Health Centre and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, have developed a website providing a seemingly unending amount of material related to mental health in teens. It has ideas for parents, teenagers and professionals to help reduce the stigma of mental health, as well as strategies to cope with mental health issues.There are also guides for family members of individuals with mental health disorders, such as younger siblings (e.g., ‘My Brother/Sister Has a Mental Illness: A Guide for Young People Ages 11-16‘).

One section I found particularly interesting is about sleep in teenagers, with a slide show called ‘Why Teens Need Their Sleep’. Sleep is very important for learning and memory. The slide show states that teenagers need 8.5 to 9 hours of sleep each night, although many of them do not get that much. This is due to a change in the sleep cycle that happens during adolescence, resulting in teens being more likely to stay up late and sleep in. Research has also shown that teens perform better on tasks that measure reaction time (how quickly they respond to something) in the afternoon, which is likely related to the change in their sleep cycle. Teens report feeling more groggy in the morning, and need to expend more energy to complete their work. Things parents and teenagers can do to help with sleep issues is decrease late night stimulating activities (e.g., internet use, T.V., etc.), and bring awareness of these differences in adolescents to others, such as teachers, other parents and physicians.