Kochi: One out of every five students in Kerala in the age group of 12-19 suffers from psychological distress, with its severity ranging from mild in 10.5% of students to moderate in 5.4% and severe in 5%, according to a study conducted by the Kerala chapter of Indian Psychiatric Society among school students in the state.
The study has also revealed the prevalence of physical abuse (75%), emotional abuse (85%) and sexual abuse (21%) among school-going adolescents, which are prime factors in triggering mental illnesses, said Dr. Dinesan N, head, Depart-ment of Psychiatry, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, at a workshop on mental health problems among young people, held here on Tuesday, on the eve of the World Mental Health Day which falls on Wednesday.
He said that WHO study itself had revealed that 10-20% of all adolescents worldwide (youngsters between 10 to 19 years) experience mental disorders. “Half of all these mental illnesses begin by the age of 14 years, and three-quarters by the age of 20 years. Suicide is the leading cause of death among 15 to 20-year-old youth. The burden of depression has increased by 67% between 1990–2013 and by 2025, it is projected to rise by another 22.5%,” he said pointing to studies.
“Most of the time, youngsters are not able to cope with stress and use a variety of coping mechanisms like substance abuse. In Kerala, the prevalence of alcohol among adolescents is found to be 15% (23% in boys and 6.5% in girls), with prevalence increasing with age. The prevalence of tobacco use is 6.9%, and the mean age of onset of use is 14 years. Bullying, depression, substance abuse, and suicide are major challenges facing today’s youth,” said Dr Dinesan.
“Adolescent depression is on the rise, but most of the time, it goes undetected with symptoms like irritability, anxiety and poor performance in studies. Traumatic events in early childhood, frequent migration, negative life events, educational setbacks, early relationship problems and stress at school and family are all linked to depression among children and adolescents. Early identification and treatment are the key to improving the mental health and quality of life of such patients,” he added.
“Resilience is the ability to successfully cope with the various challenges and opportunities in life. It does not mean that individuals do not suffer emotionally when faced with a life circumstance; it means they are able to apply competencies which they have learned to deal with challenging circumstances,” Dr Dinesan said stressing on the importance of resilience to overcome mental illness.