Break mental health stigma: Tips to address social anxiety in teens - Hindustan Times
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Break mental health stigma: Tips to address social anxiety in teens

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Apr 20, 2024 08:23 PM IST

Social anxiety in teens can feel like a villain holding them hostage. Mental health experts suggest tips to recognise and address social anxiety in teens

Countless individuals around the world struggle with mental health challenges, which often hinder access to appropriate care and support due to prevalent stigma and inadequate awareness. Approximately 10% of children and adolescents globally suffer from mental disorders yet a significant portion avoid seeking help or receiving adequate treatment but ignoring these issues can have deep and lasting effects on children, hindering their journey towards becoming well-adjusted adults and fulfilling lives.

Break mental health stigma: Tips to address social anxiety in teens (Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels)
Break mental health stigma: Tips to address social anxiety in teens (Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels)

In India, mental health is a significant public health challenge, with diverse mental disorders affecting a large section of the population. The burden of mental illness in the country is increasing, with projections indicating that by 2030, India will overtake all other countries in terms of the prevalence of depression and anxiety disorders and the lack of awareness and understanding about mental health concerns as well as the social stigma associated with mental illness are further exacerbating the problem.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Archika Sudhanshu, Spiritual and Meditation Guru, shared, “Social anxiety in teens can feel like a villain holding them hostage. It’s not just shyness but a constant fear of judgment and scrutiny that can disable their ability to connect. By recognising signs like fear of social situations, overanalyzing past social interactions, avoiding eye contact, etc. we can unlock a world of support and empower teens to thrive. Society can play a vital role in creating a more supportive environment such as schools can integrate mindfulness exercises and social skill workshops into the curriculum where teens can connect and share their experiences, normalising mental health discussions.”

She asserted, “Open communication and not isolation is the key. Let them know it’s okay to feel anxious and it’s okay to ask for help. Daily positive affirmations such as ‘I handle social situations with grace and ease, ‘I express myself confidently and assertively’ etc. can help to reduce social anxiety. Kindness can also decrease social anxiety by promoting positive emotions and social interaction. Be kind to yourself and to others. It’s always a win-win! Understanding social anxiety fosters a more compassionate society. It allows us to better support teens, create inclusive environments, challenge negative stereotypes, and empower individuals to overcome their fears and live fulfilling lives.”

Dr Kulneet Suri, Senior Director of IMS Noida and Alumni of Harvard University (HKS), explained, “Fear of public speaking, non-participation in peer group activities, stammering, and loss of appetite are some of the initial symptoms of Social Anxiety which can lead to severe repercussions if not treated professionally. Parents play a pivotal role in fostering growth mindset patterns as early as childhood so that they can seek answers, be comfortable in asking questions and reasoning, develop the ability to understand their abilities, are able to forward think post setbacks and revive themselves post uncertain and challenging times. The RED FLAGS: Many prominent researchers have researched that most students give up when they struggle-they believe they do not have the right talent to be successful. Mindset theory explains learning and struggling go hand in hand and challenges hone our skills.”

She elaborated, “Involving the child in family discussions and allowing them to speak helps in positive role modeling by parents. Keeping the talk positive and using problem-solving skills to help the child deal with conflicts in a calm and balanced way will help the child emote the behaviour. The influence of teacher sensitivity and responsiveness on children's mental and emotional regulation and behavioral adjustment plays a vital role in behavioral response from children and helps them overcome social anxiety. Similarly, healthy food choices and activities for physical development and brain development can be fostered by parents if they involve the child in taking healthy meals together, involving the child in a sports activity together with parents like biking, or walking.”

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