Communicate on the Same Wavelength



The mental condition of young people and communication problems

The mental condition of young people and communication problems

One in three young people feel lonely


What is the mental condition of adolescents?


Being a teenager is not easy – adolescence is not only a time of intense biological changes. It is also a stage of numerous psychological and social challenges – young people stop recognizing the existing world order as the only right one and begin to see its deficiencies and limitations. As a result, their existing relationships also change – neither parents nor educators are no longer absolute authority over them. This difficult stage of exploration, the journey from childhood to adulthood – in itself – promotes adolescents’ vulnerability to depression (Cole 2002; Solomon-Krakus, 2017). However, psychologists point out that the number of suffering teenagers has increased especially in recent years.


Current figures are alarming – one in seven teenagers (ages 10-19) has been diagnosed with mental disorders, including depression (UNICEF, 2021). It is worth mentioning that the consequences of depression are not only poorer academic performance (Verboom et al., 2013) and increased risk of substance abuse (Obando et al., 2004; Scholes-Balog et al., 2015). Indeed, a key concern is that young people’s depression puts them at risk for suicide (Weissman et al., 1999; Hovanesian et al., 2009).


What is the importance of the relationship with peers?


Humans are social creatures, and therefore the limited number of social contacts during the pandemic period and the associated sense of loneliness left a mark on most of us (Javed, 2020). 


According to statistics published in 2023 by the Giving Children Strength Foundation, as many as 11354 teenagers at the time reported problems related to anxiety disorders. This is not surprising, since at the stage of adolescence, peer relationships are of particular importance (Berscheid, 2003; Collins, 1997; Gifford-Smith and Brownell, 2003) – they help to fulfill developmental tasks (Cooper et al., 2021) such as learning intimacy and forming one’s own identity, among others. The severe restriction of social activity thus came into conflict with the adolescent need to be in a group. 


It is the quality of friendships formed that largely determines whether a young person feels, “adjusted”(Buhrmester, 1990). And while online friendships are a daily reality for today’s teens (Davis, 2012), it appears that online communication may not be sufficient for their proper emotional development. Despite communicating with others via apps, up to 87% of teens and young adults felt lonely during the pandemic (YoungMinds, 2020). However, this does not mean that building good, “virtual relationships” is not possible (Best et al., 2014; Triwidodo and Dewi, 2012). After all, the key is their quality – relationships and conversations that help young people gain support and a sense of belonging, and consequently feel less lonely (Skues et al., 2012). This shows how important the ability to communicate empathetically is for building friendships. Unfortunately, it cannot be acquired in school. 


Why is communication important in preventing depression and mental disorders?


Young people need to talk about their problems and want to be heard – in 2022, child and adolescent helpline consultants made 52,896 calls and responded to 8094 online messages. Unfortunately, these were not happy and hopeful chats. Teens told of emotional pain, experienced anxiety and self-harm, rooted in a lack of support from those around them (Give Kids Strength Foundation, 2023).


Therefore, it is worth remembering that while relationships between young people are very important, parent-child communication also plays an important role. Qualitative conversations with parents strengthen the bond and build trust (Barnes and Olson, 1985; Laursen, Collins, 2004; Cava et al, 2014). They also provide emotional and instrumental support for adolescents, reducing the occurrence of internalizing problems (so-called inward behavior, e.g., withdrawal, anxiety disorders) as well as externalizing problems (so-called outward behavior, e.g., verbal aggression) (Hamza and Willoughby, 2011; Garthe et al, 2015; Ioffe et al, 2020). 


A factor that protects adolescents from depression and other emotional problems (Ioffe et al., 2020; Kapetanovic et al., 2020) is certainly positive communication, in which there is no room for unfounded criticism (, “you’re worthless if you can’t assimilate this amount of material”) and denial of the validity of the problems experienced (“what do you know about life? When you grow up, you’ll have problems”). In contrast, there is room for support and empathy (,,what can we do to improve your grades?”). 


Improper communication between parents and their teenage children, ignoring their needs, anger and verbal aggression increase the risk of depressive symptoms among adolescents. They also cause adolescents to hide their troubles and withhold important information from their parents (Hale et al., 2005; Frijns et al., 2010). This, in turn, prevents adults from providing timely support, and problems that aren’t talked about not only don’t disappear, but get even worse. 

However, we all know that teenagers may not be easy interlocutors, so the empathizer suggests how to talk to a particular person and what to avoid in communicating with them 



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