Youngsters seeking anxiety help on the rise, say experts

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Youngsters seeking anxiety help on the rise, say experts

Dubai - A history of trauma is also a big risk factor.

By Asma Ali Zain

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Published: Tue 9 Oct 2018, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Tue 9 Oct 2018, 11:48 PM

Youngsters and adolescents today are facing mental pressures and are struggling with anxiety. On World Mental Health Day today themed 'Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World,' experts said that many children are facing mood disturbances, including depression.
Dr Ramadan AlBlooshi, CEO, Dubai Healthcare City Authority - Regulatory, said: "World Mental Health Day is a timely reminder to raise awareness and initiate conversations to improve mental wellbeing in the communities we serve."
According to Aamnah Husain, marriage and family therapist at German Neuroscience Centre, Dubai, children and adolescents often struggle with anxiety.
"It could be social phobia, which is to worry about other people's perception and judgement and fears about performance or panic attacks or more general anxiety," she said.
"At the centre, many children come in with mood disturbances like depression. Other common disorders are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Austism Spectrum Disorder and for young teens and adolescents eating disorders are also prevalent," she said.
"All of these issues are affected by hereditary and biological factors but environmental and psychological influences play a big role as well," added Aamnah.
"The beliefs they hold about themselves and the world, the messages they get from people, places and organisations around them, the societal pressures they face, the level of support they have and the resources available to them, can all contribute to the development and treatment of their mental health. A history of trauma is also a big risk factor."
Regional rate
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UAE has the highest regional level of depression, at 5.1 per cent of the population. The country also ranks highly for anxiety with 4.1 per cent of people admitting to a problem.
In 2015, there were 444,016 cases of depression reported at primary health centres, while 354,199 people sought help for anxiety.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting more than 300 million people, and although rarer in children it is becoming more evident in adolescents.
Fewer than four per cent of young children are said to have depression, but that figure leaps closer to 20 per cent in teenagers, with the stress of school life and social media to blame. Also as per WHO, half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated. In terms of the burden of the disease among adolescents, depression is the third leading cause. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. Eating disorders are also of concern.
According to Dr Bobomurod Keldiyorov, specialist family medicine, Canadian Specialist Hospital, the signs that parents and educators need to look out for in a children include withdrawal from social interactions, increase in challenging behaviour, change in sleeping and eating habits and sudden change in behaviour.
"In modern families, especially when both the parents are working, they might miss out on spending time with their children that could possibly affect their mental health development. These children being raised by nannies or housemaids are left to entertain themselves with television and smartphones/tablets resulting in a lack of socially stimulating environment," he said.
He also said that another common cause affecting the children includes anxiety due to stress of examinations. "Especially in the later years of school, between classes 9 to 12, is when children start getting stressed either due to demanding curriculum, demanding parents or a misplaced belief that a bad grade will be devastating to their admission/career prospects," he added.
One or the more common problems that have only recently surfaced is addiction to mobile and gaming leading to inability to focus on work or studies. Such children develop a strong need to remain connected to the phone or playing games, said the doctor.
How to improve mental health
Dr Sweta Adatia, specialist neurologist at RAK Hospital and RAK Diabetes Centre, Dubai, advises to tap into the power of the Vagus Nerve to improve and strengthen one's mental health. 
"A long and wandering nerve, the vagus nerve is made of both motor and sensory fibers and connects the brain stem to organs and systems, including the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and female sex organs, as well as linking the neck, ears and tongue to the brain," explained Dr Adatia.
Key facts
>One in six people are aged 10-19 years.
>Mental health conditions account for 16 per cent of the global burden of disease and injury in people aged 10-19 years
>Half of all mental health conditions start by 14 years of age but most cases are undetected and untreated
>Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among adolescents
>Suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19 year olds
>The consequences of not addressing adolescent mental health conditions extend to adulthood, impairing both physical and mental health and limiting opportunities to lead fulfilling lives as adults


Support system is a must
It doesn't surprise when doctors highlight the issue of anxiety among children in the UAE. Lack of usual support network of family and friends could be a reason. Even as most expatriates call the UAE their second home, not many have a healthy social network that can help unwind. Mental health issues are more of a symptom than a disease and can be tackled with professional help. Spending more time with children, too, can help. Parents should be more mindful of this.

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