Discussions on mental health have a tendency to focus on adults living with behavioral health problems, including depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Yet, school-age children and adolescents continue to suffer outside of the media’s attention-circle. In fact, students may be at a higher risk for mental health problems than the general population, reports NPR.org. Consequently, you need to understand the prevalence of mental health disorders among students, its causes and how mobile technology can help.
The Prevalence of the Student Mental Health Crisis
As many as 20 percent of U.S. children exhibit the signs or symptoms of mental health disorders annually. The overwhelming majority of these children, 80 percent, do not get the help they need, creating a sense of isolation and despair for many. Sadly, the problem only gets worse from here.
In a recent study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, children of parents with known mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression or substance abuse, are at an increased risk for committing violent acts or attempting suicide, explains Cari Nierenberg of Live Science. But, the most ironic fact behind this crisis revolves around substance abuse among parents.
Marijuana is widely proclaimed to reduce the symptoms of mental health disorders and reduce stress levels. In addition, middle-aged parents, those between ages 35 and 44, are statistically more likely to smoke marijuana than their teenage children, reports The Washington Post. This reflects the first flip-flop of marijuana use between teens and parents since 2002, but it has an even darker secret.
The strongest associations between parents with behavioral health problems and children’s risk for suicide and violence was found among parents who had a history of abusing marijuana. Up to 2.6 percent of children of parents with this history attempt suicide, but all children in this group were at a 200-percent higher risk of suffering from severe mental health problems.
Other Causes of Student Mental Health Crises
The Denmark study suggests improving the mental health of parents through community-based treatment programs, including inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, could be key to reducing the overall prevalence of mental health disorders among students. But, a few other causes are worth reviewing, which include the following:
- Stresses caused by increased difficulty of academic study and extracurricular activities. As children become adolescents, the difficulty of school-work increases. Adolescents may become involved in school sports, other team events or academic competitions. In addition, some adolescents will begin their first jobs, increases overall stress levels.
- Problems and relationships among peers. Adolescence is filled with peer pressure, exploration of identity and independence-seeking behaviors. However, this creates a perfect storm for problems to develop between peers, such as cyberbullying. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), up to 73.2 percent of teens were subject to cyberbullying in 2013, the most recent year cyberbullying data were collected by the NCES.
- Disruptive behaviors. Students who exhibit disruptive behaviors, such as inappropriate language, aggression or loss of interest in academia, may be suffering from a mental health disorder as well. However, this can have a herd-like effect on peers, increasing mental health problems’ prevalence among them.
What Does Mobile Tech Have to Do With the Problem?
Aside from substance abuse among parents, cyberbullying appears to be the biggest contributor of mental health problems among students. With the dominion of social media in society, cyberbullying can be extremely hard to address, but it is easy to track. In other words, social media leaves a virtual trail for educators, social workers, parents, caregivers and case managers to follow, allowing for better identification of students experiencing these problems.
Moreover, a strong prevalence of mobile technology via smartphones and tablets has a direct link to the rise of cyberbullying. But, this prevalence can be part of the solution if you know where to look. Behavioral health apps are among the most prevalent apps available for both Android and iOS devices. According to NPR.org, new smartphone apps have been developed specifically to help school-age people, including teens and college students overcome mental health problems. These apps include the following:
- Mood 24/7 lets students track their daily moods and feelings, and the information can be shared to caregivers, physicians or other appropriate parties.
- CodeBlue is named after the life-threatening cardiac-arrest code used to identify emergencies in hospitals. When a person feels extremely depressed, or even suicidal, activating the app will automatically alert pre-determined people, such as clinicians, parents and friends, about the imminent mental health emergency.
- Lantern matches users’ goals and personal emotional problems to wellness coaches and mental health professionals, especially among students with eating disorders.
In your career, apps may also hold the key to understanding how to personalize therapies and resources to help students going through mental health crises.
Statistics are not in favor of better mental health treatment for students right now. The surge in cyberbullying and lax attitudes toward marijuana abuse are playing key roles in driving the growing mental health crises of America’s students. Fortunately, the best solution is already accessible by many students—mobile tech via smartphones and tablets.
Newer smartphone apps are being designed to connect users to support professionals. This will result in faster identification of at-risk students and populations, including youth who have “dropped out” of education, better treatment outcomes and more comprehensive insight into the causes of mental health problems among this population.
By relaying information gleamed from students’ mental health apps, you be proactive in the fight to end the stigma of mental health problems among students and the general population. Most importantly, your choice to work mobile tech to reach more at-risk students and youth could literally save the life of a student who feels incapable of living anymore. Ultimately, your duty is to use all resources available to prevent tragedies due to mental health problems, and you get to decide if mobile tech will be your next go-to resource.