In our society, people decided that the age of 18 is when someone legally becomes an adult. The brain itself finishes growing between the ages of 11 to 14 in young humans but continues to develop until the mid to late 20s. As a result, young adults, especially teenagers, are very susceptible to mental health disorders. They lack the maturity needed to deal with these disorders and need support and help to grow into healthy adults.
Several factors can influence the mental health of young adults. One of the biggest factors is stress. Many young adults are in school or go on to secondary education, which comes with societal pressures that are unavoidable. Bullying is perhaps one of the bigger factors that can negatively impact a young adult. Other factors include lack of sleep, peer pressure, and how they are treated by the authority figures in their lives. Here is a breakdown of how these affect a person and what mental disorders can result from them.
The Impact of Authority Figures on Mental Health
Perhaps the largest contributor to mental health disorders in adolescents and young adults is how they are treated by the authority figures in their lives. Parents influence their children strongly, for better or worse. Many times young adult will hide their problems from their parents, afraid of being judged for how they feel or having their feelings invalidated. Since so many young people hide their problems, it festers and grows into worse problems. Depression is an example of a common mental health disorder experienced by young people during their growing years. Often, they are judged harshly for it, being called “lazy” or accused of making up symptoms for attention.
Teachers are another big impact on the mental health of young adults. Being mistreated or dismissed can cause their students to simply give up and sink further down into their negative mental health. Repeated mistreatment can cause trauma-based disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as well as anxiety disorders. This causes young adults to begin their adult lives in fear, which sets them up for failure as they try to navigate a world they feel is out to get them.
However, having someone they trust can help turn improve someone’s mental health. It is important that if you are a mature adult, treat those around you with compassion and respect. Treating someone badly can cause damage to someone that may take years of therapy to fix. Just simply acknowledging how someone feels is a small way to help the young develop a healthy mind.
The Impact of Peers on Mental Health
Peers influence each other strongly. From fads to fashion to silly internet memes, peers are what people lean on to help them find their place in life. This can be a double-edged sword. On one side, you develop long-lasting relationships that can help you for the rest of your life. The other side can be the negative aspect, which is ostracization and bullying.
Humans are social animals, so we crave being accepted. Fitting in is important as it gives us a lot of comfort and feelings of safety. When someone is bullied, they are prevented from forming these important connections and feelings of safety. This is especially hard on someone who has autism, which makes it difficult to recognize social cues.
Peer pressure is often a factor in youth and addiction. With the pressure to fit in, many young adults are pressured into trying addictive substances or engaging in addictive behaviors. This can sometimes result in a substance use disorder (SUD) if it is a chemical addiction, such as to tobacco products or alcohol.
It’s vitally important to teach young adults the skills they need to navigate these negative hits to their mental health. Healthy coping skills can help someone deal with the pressure from their peers. It doesn’t mean they have to “toughen up.” It simply means they need to learn to utilize a skill set that is rarely taught in schools or by parents.
The Impact of Genetics and Environment on Mental Health
Genetics and environment are factors that someone cannot choose when they are born. Several mental health disorders are now known to be genetic and can “run” in the family. Common examples of these are schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, both of which tend to appear once the brain finishes growing and begins to mature. Many times these disorders develop after the age of 20, but in very rare cases can develop earlier. Nobody can help it when they develop these disorders, and it’s important to still treat these people with respect and kindness. Treatments for these disorders vary and often need medication to manage.
The environment also has a large impact on mental health. Someone who lives in a dangerous and noisy area is more likely to become anxious than someone who lives in a quiet and safe place. The environment also has a factor on aspects such as nutrition and sleep, both vital to a healthy brain. Without either of these, someone is more likely to develop a mental health disorder.
For young adults, education is important to help them develop into healthy adults, as well as the knowledge that they don’t have to deal with their mental health alone. It’s important to let the young adults in your life know that they and their feelings matter. With this, we can expect a healthier society in the future, as these young adults grow and teach the next generation how to care for their mental health.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.