Friday, January 21, 2011

Young and troubled

Are we causing or contributing to others' mental illness?

By Eveline Gan, TODAY | Posted: 04 January 2011

SINGAPORE - At 30, acclaimed American poet Sylvia Plath, who suffered from depression, killed herself by placing her head in the oven, with the gas turned on.

Her sensational suicide is well-known in the literary circle.

However, most may not know that Plath's mental illness started even before she reached adulthood. She had, in fact, attempted suicide earlier in her teens.

Plath's early, long-drawn struggle with depression is not unusual.

Mental disorders is one of the pressing global health issues among youths today.

According to Clinical Associate Professor Chong Siow Ann, senior consultant psychiatrist and vice-chairman of research at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), most mental disorders such as depression and psychosis have their beginnings during adolescence.

"However, the tragedy is that such mental disorders are often detected and diagnosed for the first time only later in life," said Clinical Assoc Prof Chong, who will speak about the topic at The Young And The Troubled public forum on youth mental health organised by the IMH next week.

He cited a study by the World Health Organization which found that 50 per cent of all mental illnesses start by the age of 14, and 75 per cent by the age of 25.

Leading youth mental health expert Professor Patrick McGorry from the University of Melbourne, who is executive director of Orygen Youth Health, suggested that sociological changes, increasing materialism, family breakdown and availability of alcohol and drugs could be reasons why more youths have mental health disorders.

In an email interview with TODAY, Prof McGorry said: "A great deal of preventable disability and premature death occurs with late intervention. Early intervention offers the best hope for a normal life.

"It does not always mean a cure, but it does usually lead to recovery and a meaningful life with family and friends."

Clinical Assoc Prof Chong added that parents must also first learn to overcome "unrealistic fear or misconceptions" should they suspect that their child has a mental illness, and help them seek help.

In Singapore, outpatient cases seen at IMH's child guidance clinic have increased by 16 per cent from 2006 to 2009. Last year, the clinic saw 3,000 new outpatient cases for those under 18 years old.

An ongoing local research programme, Longitudinal Youth At-Risk Study (Lyriks), found that approximately nine per cent of the 1,400 youths between 14 and 29 years old screened have at risk symptoms of psychosis, and 18 of the youths were found to be psychotic.

According to Prof McGorry, here are some early warning signs that something might not be quite right with your teenage child:

  • Frequent episodes of anxiety and depression which may manifest as distress or irritability;
  • Social withdrawal from family, friends and regular activities;
  • Suspiciousness or paranoia;
  • Changes in eating behaviour;
  • Self-harm under stressful situations.

- TODAY/rl

Taken from; source article is below:
Young and troubled

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