'I could only focus on the negatives, I didn’t think anything about how to get the best out of the situation', says pupil Marisa Kruppa
World Mental Health Day: Social media cause of unbearable pressure among young people, says parent
Changing schools, leaving home or starting a job for the first time are all new challenges faced up by young people on the journey through life.
Some embrace those challenges with confidence, others struggle to adapt.
When you add a family break up, bullying or peer pressure into the mix it creates an environment in which some young people find it difficult to cope.
On World Mental Health Day 2018, young people like Marisa Kruppa, a 14-year-old pupil living in Dubai, are the focus of how to deal with adolescent stress and manage mental health.
“I found the divorce between my parents difficult to accept, and to live through,” she said.
“I could only focus on the negatives, I didn’t think anything about how to get the best out of the situation.
“I didn’t take school seriously and began to fall behind, particularly in maths as I wasn’t very good at it anyway.”
Teachers who were concerned Marissa was losing ground on most of her classmates called in her parents for a meeting.
No one picked up she may be struggling mentally, and eventually decided she should switch schools where she began learning a new British curriculum.
“In middle school, my friends didn’t really notice anything was wrong,” Marisa said.
“It can be hard to make friends in Dubai. They eventually noticed I was struggling, and one or two were very supportive.
“One of my friends had gone through a similar thing with parents splitting up, and we talked to each other about how we were dealing with it. That was a big help.”
Although Marisa wasn’t bullied online, she says it was a common occurrence in her peer group.
Those at the sharp end of the taunts would withdraw from school life, and disengage with their friends.
Eventually, a class teacher contacted Marisa’s mum, Susanne, to ask what could be troubling her.
When a consistent pattern of behaviour was established at school and at home, the family decided to seek professional help.
“I noticed a big difference in Marisa, as she had changed,” said Susanne Kruppa, who is from Germany and works in healthcare.
“I have had to limit her use of social media and try to get her to focus on her family and schoolwork.
“It is not easy to find the red line, and you feel like you are always on edge. I wanted to be her friend, but I know I have to be a parent first.
“It was difficult to get close to my daughter to understand what was going on, so I could help her.”
In 2016, depressive disorders were listed by the World Health Organisation as the sixth most common cause of disability in the UAE, with anxiety ninth on that list.
In adolescents, depression is third on a global list of disease burden, and suicide the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds.
In an ever changing world, young people must quickly adapt, but dealing with change adds its own anxiety. Not all adolescents are equipped to cope.
“Social media is like a sickness and it is driving 90 per cent of mental health issues in young people,” said Ms Kruppa.
“I felt helpless as it is hard to monitor what is happening online. Running out of solutions was making me anxious and upset.
“Weeks were filled with anger with everyone feeling uncomfortable. I didn’t feel like she was the child I knew anymore.
“Our bond was broken, so I realised we needed help and so began family therapy.”
Marisa was lucky to get the help she needed before her problems became worse.
Half of all recorded mental illness worldwide cases begin by the age of 14, but many cases are still going undetected and can worsen in later life.
“Common signs a young person may have a problem are isolating themselves, hiding their face or a change in posture,” said Aamnah Husain, a counselling psychologist at the German Neuroscience Centre.
“If they are losing interest in things they once enjoyed, it could then be time to ask a question.
“Children will have so much emotion during a traumatic period like a death or a divorce, and are not always equipped to deal with it.”
Prevention of mental health disorders begins with an understanding of the causes, and what treatment is available.
Spotting early warning signs in adolescents can be crucial. Many UAE schools offer counsellor support programmes, but pupils must have the courage to accept help.
“Once we understand why a child is feeling a certain way, we can help them develop their coping mechanism,” said Ms Husain, who specialises in treating mood disorders like depression.
“Therapy is definitely an option, and we try to get them to engage in activities that make them feel better about themselves.”