Teenagers from Reading have been learning how to spot the signs of mental health problems and the ways in which they can be overcome, thanks to an initiative from the University of Reading.
Staff and students from the University's Anxiety and Depression in Young People Research Unit (ANDY) delivered free mental health workshops at Southcote and Coley Community Centres and Fairview Youth Club last week.
Organised with partners Reading FC Community Trust, the workshops highlighted the symptoms of common mental health difficulties. They also gave young people the chance to become aware of different strategies to help promote positive mental health.
Psychological disorders are becoming increasingly common in children, with approximately 20% of children suffering from significant symptoms of anxiety and between 5% and 10% of children meeting diagnostic criteria for an anxiety disorder. Children with anxiety disorders may have fewer friends, lack confidence in trying new things, and are known to underachieve at school and risk social exclusion.
Meanwhile depression will affect around 15% of young people before they are 18 years old. Symptoms vary but low mood, lack of pleasure and irritability are common. Others include lethargy, tiredness, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, aggression and a feeling that you cannot cope or want to live.
Dr Helen Dodd, AnDY, University of Reading, said: "It was excellent to see so many young people at the workshops. A significant number of adolescents experience emotional health problems but only a minority seek support. Our aim in this series of workshops was to help young people identify when they are experiencing difficulties and to understand what they might be able to do about it.
"There are many simple things that we can do to help our emotional wellbeing but young people may not be aware of them. If untreated, depression can have a disastrous effect during adolescence. It can then often have lifelong effects and tragic consequences so identifying the signs early is crucial. We were very keen to work with teenagers to help them develop techniques to deal with difficulties in their lives."
Jay Gilbert, Reading FC Community Trust, commented: "Working to improve emotional wellbeing in young people is extremely important to Reading FC Community Trust so that we can help them become aware of looking after themselves and their future, allowing young people to feel empowered in what they are doing with their lives in a positive way."
On 10 June 2015 ANDY will be hosting a special event for parents, carers teachers and other people working with children and young people. These sessions will provide an overview of recent developments in research and practice, with opportunities for discussion with other attendees and the research team.
The University of Reading recently launched a new campaign to support novel research into a new treatment for teenage depression, and to highlight the lack of global research in this area. Visit the campaign webpage for more details.