Anxiety and young people – don’t suffer in silence

At Youth Off The Streets, we encounter young people with anxiety issues on a regular basis and we find that young people tend to suffer in silence, thinking that it is happening only to them. However, anxiety is very common, especially for young people. According to Beyond Blue, one in six young Australians (16-24) currently experience anxiety , that is one in six young people who suffer in silence and as such do not know how to cope with anxiety.

Our experience at Youth Off The Streets has taught us that the first step to coping with anxiety is to realise that it is a natural and normal response to events. These events can be real or imaginary, it does not matter, what is important is impact the event is having on a young person. If the event creates disturbing, fear based emotions and reactions in them, such as disturbing thoughts, feelings and body reactions, anxiety is a natural response to this

In everyday life, some anxiety is normal. Situations arise that induce stress, worry or fear. Anxiety becomes a problem when it starts to diminish the quality of a person’s life and stops, interferes or delays that person from accomplishing what they want to accomplish. The symptoms of anxiety can include the following:
• feeling faint
• worrying constantly
• sweaty palms
• butterflies in stomach
• muscles feel tense
• chest feels tight
• can’t breathe
• diarrhoea
• stomach pains
• shaking
• feeling dizzy

The more severe the symptoms become the greater the impact on a person’s life. Anxiety disorders are a real issue that needs to be addressed through professional help. At Youth Off The Streets, our young people often display signs of having an anxiety disorder¹ this is often because of a traumatic experience they’ve lived through.

We find increased levels of anxiety in young people who have experienced trauma. Some young people may even use substances – such as cannabis – to self medicate, which only makes the problem worse. Initially using substances like cannabis makes the young person feel instant relief from their anxiety symptoms and this reinforces the continued use of cannabis, however in the long term cannabis has been shown to increase anxiety symptoms and lead to more severe mental health issues.

In some circumstances this anxiety can eliminate any stability in their lives. They can quickly find themselves homeless, disconnected from mainstream education, in bad relationships and in legal trouble.

What makes this even more difficult is when young people struggle trying to describe and understand what they are feeling, and when they can’t do this, they may turn to other non-helpful ways of coping with anxiety such as self-harm, risk taking behaviours and substance use. There is no exact cause of anxiety and it can manifest in young people due to a variety of issues, which includes; unresolved grief and loss; violence in the family or community; substance use and bullying. The above issues are the ones we deal with and it is difficult for young people to openly discuss why they have anxiety. With the assistance of our psychologists in our mental health team, Youth Off The Streets work hard with these young people to ensure that they feel safe enough to share their feelings and don’t suffer in silence. How do we do this, by providing safe counselling environments, group work programs and referrals to appropriate external services.

Young people don’t have to suffer in silence. Our Mental Health Team help young people cope with anxiety. Where it’s needed, we also refer them on to specialist support services. There are a number of specialist services that help young people with anxiety.

Please find a brief list of services below:
http://www.youthbeyondblue.com/
http://www.headspace.org.au/
http://www.kidshelp.com.au/
http://au.reachout.com/

¹ www.youthbeyondblue.com

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