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Spotting the dark cloud: mental health issues in young adults

It has never been more pertinent to educate families about the early signs of mental illness.

Our study has revealed a worrying rise in mental health problems among teenagers in the UK. With 18-19 year olds increasingly being referred for mental health issues (a 17 percent increase on 2016). Trying to spot a mental illness isn’t always easy. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to diagnosing uncharacteristic behaviour, nor is there simply one “type” of person who suffers with anxiety or depression. These 9 behaviours could all be signs of mental illness in a young adult:

As our new study reveals a worrying rise in mild to moderate mental health problems among teenagers, we spoke to Dr Mohammed Munawar, clinical psychologist and principal clinical lead, about the steps parents can take to help a young person suffering with anxiety and depression.

Dr Mohammed Munawar’s tips for parents: Seven ways to help a young person suffering with anxiety and depression

1. Make sure they don't feel judged

Mental health problems are very common and can affect all of us.

While 1 in 4 people are affected by mental health difficulties, unfortunately, there is still a social stigma, especially for young people. Stigma is best described as any form of disapproval towards a person or a group due to their characteristics. This can lead to discrimination, prejudice or stereotypes being formed.

This stigma means that young people are sometimes reluctant to acknowledge that they have psychological difficulties. As a result, they may not seek treatment, due to fears that other people may find out. Thus, young people can often suffer in silence and their symptoms and difficulties can persist. It is important not to be judgemental or negative towards young people, and, instead, encourage them to be more open.

2. Don’t take their reactions personally

It’s not you that is to blame for their health.

As a parent or guardian, mental illness can often seem like a personal indictment. However, many factors can cause mental health problems. It is important that you do not take things personally. Focus on being there for your child now.

3. Keep calm and focus on listening

Don’t criticise or pass judgement, this can only worsen the situation.

It can be extremely difficult for a child to open up about suffering from a mental health issue. It is essential to always be mindful of this. Sometimes parents can feel angry that their child has not told them earlier. Parents may make remarks, comparing how life today is ‘easier’ than it was when they were a child. The most helpful thing you can do initially is to listen to your child. If your child feels listened to, and understood, s/he is more likely to express how they truly feel and what they are struggling with. This will only help to strengthen your relationship with your child, whereas a negative reaction will alienate him/her.


  • Keep calm and listen to your child

  • Be understanding and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Be careful not to lecture your child, or to be critical or dismissive. Avoid comments like, “there’s nothing wrong with you”, “snap out of it”, “get your act together”, or “in my day, life was much tougher,” as this will only discourage your child from talking about their difficulties.

4. Offer help and be positive

Ask them what you can do as a family to support them.

It is important to let your loved one know that you are there for them and that you want to support them as a family. When young people suffer with mental health difficulties, it can often be a lonely and isolating experience. Let your loved one know that you are available for them to talk to at any time. Just being available and there to listen can be immensely helpful. Also, ask them what would be helpful for you to do. Again, it is important to listen to what they think will be helpful, as opposed to imposing anything on them. By being positive and supportive, it can instil hope that things can improve.

5. Create a more positive and healthy environment

Promote healthy eating and encourage regular sleeping patterns.

When people suffer from depression and anxiety, common symptoms include disrupted or oversleeping and appetite problems. Gently encourage your child to eat regular healthy meals, even if it is a small amount. Help your child to achieve a balance between rest and activity. Encourage him/her to sleep at night and to avoid spending long periods in front of the television, computer or smartphone. Regular and consistent sleeping patterns will help to develop a stable routine.

6. Encourage them to spend more time on shared activities

Gently encourage your loved one to take part in light physical activity.

Be mindful that mental health difficulties can impact on physical energy levels and motivation. Gently encourage them to take part in light physical activity, even if this is for just a few minutes at first. For example, this may include going for a short walk with them. Increasing activities in a graded and manageable way can help improve mood. Similarly, re-introducing fun and pleasurable activities can be helpful.

7. State that support is available

It is important to tell them that in addition to your support, there is also professional help available.

It is important to inform your loved one that, in addition to your support, there is also professional help available. Offer to go with them to a doctor’s appointment: the GP will discuss the symptoms in more detail, and provide treatment options.

Please note, it is also essential to look after your own mental health. As a parent, you will be keen to help your child, however, you don’t have to cope with everything on your own. Make use of the support that you have from your partner, family and friends. Also consider seeking professional help, where appropriate, to maintain your own well-being.

To watch our video on the nine potential trigger signs for parents to be aware of in young adults click here

Feeling Anxious or Depressed?

Below are details with more information about mental health, services and organisations that offer support directly to people:

  • Mind - Provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.

  • NHS Choices Moodzone - Offers practical advice, interactive tools, videos and audio guides to help you feel mentally and emotionally better.

  • Samaritans - Offer a safe place for you to talk any time you like, in your own way – about whatever’s getting to you.

  • Mental Health Foundation - Support and research for good mental health.

  • Young Minds - Help for self-harm.

Mental Health Services

Our 24/7 Mental Health Helpline is available to members as soon as they join. Any member of Benenden in need of support can call the Mental Health Helpline on 0800 414 8247. Our face-to-face Mental Health Counselling Support is available after 6 months.