Dubai - Experts say adolescence comes with a bundle of physical and hormonal changes and this is when youngsters need all psychological and emotional support.
Like any other teenager, 17-year-old Laila is struggling with a major identity crisis. She has had a tough time going to school and facing crowds.
"We were new in Dubai and I always have this feeling that I don't belong to this place. I used to sit at home for the whole day and even refused to go to school for months," Laila told Khaleej Times.
Experts say adolescence comes with a bundle of physical and hormonal changes and this is when youngsters need all psychological and emotional support.
On this World Mental Health Day tomorrow (October 10), the German Neuroscience Centre has launched a support groups for teenagers in the UAE. The group held its first meeting on October 6, providing a confidential environment for teens to vent out their feelings and discuss issues that affect their mental health and well-being.
Nur, a Grade 12 student, confessed to be a complete rebel till few months back. But after a couple of sessions with a psychologist, he said he is able to change his behaviour.
"I used to get aggressive easily and hardly used to step out of my home. But now I go out and try to spend quality time with my mother. I feel happy now," said Nur.
Are teen issues rightly dealt with?
Parents, guardians and teachers play a vital role in shaping a child's personality, nature and character. According to Dr Fadwa L. Lkorchy, a psychologist and personality dimension trainer who will be part of the support sessions, communication and patience is key to dealing with teen issues.
"It is important to understand their problems. First, for example, what exactly they are going through. Second step is to comfort them and assure them so that they can confide in you completely or can discuss openly about their problems. Aggression or getting rude with them can make it difficult for you to deal with the issue," she said.
"Sometimes teenagers come with a problem where they live in an illusion. I have patients who fake depression because they think it is cool. They watch videos of celebrities in depression and act that they are going through the same. Though the problem is different, it is equally dangerous and challenging for their mental health."
Depression burdens young minds
Depression is the biggest burden on young minds, according to a recent World Health Organisation study.
> 1 in 10 children and young people aged 5 to 16 worldwide suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder.
> The number of young people aged 15 to 16 with depression nearly doubled between 1980s and the 2000s.
> Nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression.
> More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood.
How to deal with teen problems
> Appreciate them from time to time
> Make them feel special
> Encourage them in their realising their dreams
> Make open and healthy discussions with them
> Give them space and respect their choice
> Organise a family picnic or outing
Child abuse can maim them for life
Mia was a fifth grader at the school I worked at as a counsellor. She would come in and spend time with me. But most times she would just sit quietly, not wanting to talk about anything. Then, one day, she told me about her mother and how angry she would get when Mia did something not approved by her. I asked Mia whether it would be alright for me to chat with her mother but almost as soon as I said this, I could see a look of panic on her face. So, I decided not to discuss anything until I could get Mia more comfortable. A few days later, Mia came to school with a burn mark on her arm caused by her mother for failing her math test. Mia came to see me and all I could see in her eyes was a helplessness and agony.
According to a Unicef report on worldwide violence against children, two-thirds of children are physically abused on a regular basis. One in 10 children face corporal punishment as a source of discipline from their caregivers or parents. The Word Health Organisation estimates that globally at least 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 years had experienced sexual abuse in some form.
Most sexual abuse occurs by persons that the family already knows. Even though over the last decade recognition of child abuse has grown, it still remains largely under-reported and undocumented.
Child abuse is categorised as physical, psychological or sexual harm caused to a child. Violence against children can occur at home, school, community and the Internet. Also, a wide range of perpetrators can commit violence against children including parents, teachers, neighbors, strangers and other children. Such harmful behaviour not only causes pain and humiliation to children but in some instances can kill.
Studies show that the long term effects of abuse can include mental, emotional and cognitive difficulties, juvenile delinquency and adult criminal behaviour, social difficulties, alcohol and drug abuse and sexually deviant behaviours.
Support systems for parents who might be stressed should be established. Providing families with basic resources such as food, clothing, housing, etc., is important to ensure well-being of the family. Parents also need emotional support in the form of encouragement in order to face challenges of life. Parent training programmes that teach them positive skills are very helpful. It is imperative that if we know of a child being abused, it is immediately reported to authorities so that appropriate action can be taken. Policies and laws to protect children from abuse need to be consistently enforced to offer maximum protection to children who are victims. The government and people need to work hand in hand to ensure that our children are safe and protected.
(The writer is a licensed mental health counsellor from Florida, USA and a certified school counsellor from Massachusetts, USA. She is also a certified distance Counsellor.)