For my first round of research, I will start by explaining mental illnesses, then dive into aspects of stress and its impact on high school students. Here's my inquiry question for this cycle,
"Why are mental health issues common amongst teenagers and students?"
"Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities." (1)
- In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.
- By age 40, about 50% of the population will have or have had a mental illness.
- Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds.
- It is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder – the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide.
- Schizophrenia is youth’s greatest disabler as it strikes most often in the 16 to 30 year age group, affecting an estimated one person in 100. (2)
As mentioned in the given statistics, suicide seems to be very impactful in regard to teenage deaths. And, since it is said that half of the population will have or have had a mental illness by age 40, could this be a factor that leads to the suicides? Is it mostly environment of other peers around the individual, difficulties in school, problems at home, or the mental illnesses?
"A physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure). Stress can initiate the 'fight or flight' response, a complex reaction of neurologic and endocrinologic systems." (3)
-What factors contribute to stress?
- loss sense of control
- sudden change in routine/daily life
- disturbed sleep/sleep apnea
- new job
- family (4)
Basically, any change (big or small) can lead to stress.
-What factors in high school can contribute to stress?
- Academic stress: homework, projects, studying for tests/exams, grades
- Social stress: alcohol/drugs, fashion, friends, bullying, social media, drama
- Extracurricular stress: sports, clubs, leadership positions
- Family stress: siblings, divorce, family status/income
- Career stress: high school jobs, scholarship applications, university applications, career path decisions (5)
Can stress trigger mental illnesses?
-Stress hormones can release sedatives which, in great amounts, can lead to low energy and depression. Constant release of these sedatives through negative stress can contribute to the likelihood of being depressed.
-Stress can extend episodes of bipolar disorder or even worsen its intensity, which will further disrupt day-to-day activities and responsibilities.
-Patterns of stress can intensify feelings of anxiety and/or panic attacks. Chronic activation of stress hormones is likely to contribute to severe anxiety, which can include a high heart rate, nausea, etc. (6)
Impacts of stress on development
-In developing children and teens, cases of prolonged stress can slow the brain's growth as well as its development.
-Long term exposures to cortisol (which is released during the stress response) can actually damage to the developing brain.
-Chronic stress during teen develop can negatively affect the immune system, which could affect immune responses as the child grows. (7)
Thank you so much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed my first round of research! For my next round, I will focus on insomnia & personality disorders, and look into their impacts on teen development and performance in school.
Feedback & suggestions are always welcome