“Help.” This simple, powerful word demands attention. And yet, when it comes to young adult mental health, too often it goes unheard.
A new survey commissioned by the California Endowment found that more than three-quarters of young adults reported anxiety.
How do you recognize signs of distress? Hoag experts offer five key signs:
Excessive fear. “The pandemic exacerbated what was already a growing rate of anxiety among young adults, who were already one of the most underserved populations in mental health. Recent studies have shown that this transitional age youth population (ages 18-26) were more directly affected than their older or younger counterparts,” said Sina Safahieh, M.D., medical director of Hoag’s teen mental health program, ASPIRE.
Consistent feelings of sadness or anger. The same state poll of 800 18 to 24-year-olds found that in the last year, more than half reported depression, 31% experienced suicidal thinking and 16% engaged in self-harm. “The last thing you want your child to be is a statistic, and without adequate help, many of our young adults are at risk of becoming just that,” Dr. Safahieh said.
Difficulty sleeping. This one is cyclical. Depression and anxiety contribute to poor sleep, and poor sleep can contribute to depression and anxiety. “One answer is to unplug. Social media and the constant bombardment of technology affects sleep. I can’t over-emphasize the importance of sleep,” Dr. Safahieh said. “Just losing one hour of sleep per night is huge, especially with recent studies revealing that sleeping in on weekends does not makeup for lost sleep during the week. Total that over a single month, and it results in a net loss of 30 hours of sleep.”
Problems concentrating or learning. Sometimes warning signs show up in the classroom, with kids either expressing testing anxiety, not turning in homework or showing a sudden slipping in grades. “The resources we offer through ASPIRE provide teens and their families effective tools and resiliency training to overcome current mental health concerns, navigate future life stressors and thrive,” said Prerna Rao, LMFT, clinical manager of the Hoag programs.
Substance abuse. Studies report more than 70% of high school students will have tried alcohol and 50% will have taken an illegal drug by their senior year. “We know that substance use before age 18 increases risks of a substance use disorder by 6.5x. It’s critical that parents talk to their children about the risks of drugs and alcohol and help them make healthy choices. If you think your teen is involved in significant drug use, contact a doctor, counselor or other health care provider for help,” shared Rao.
Nearly half of the 800 18 to 24-year-olds polled for the survey said they wanted to speak to a mental health professional but could either not afford or not access one. They were asking for help, but no one answered.
This doesn’t have to be the case. Hoag’s ASPIRE Program (for ages 13-17) and Young Adult Mental Health Program are open and available to you. If you or someone you know needs help, call Hoag ASPIRE or Young Adult Mental Health Program in Irvine at 949-557-0670 or Newport Beach at 949-764-6360.