Knowing mental health: Anxiety disorders

Anxiety is a problem faced by around one in ten young Australians aged 18-25.

For young people aged 13-17, the figure is approximately one in twenty-five. Anxiety is a normal emotion experienced by everyone at some stage. It is an emotional anticipation of future threats. It is often associated with muscle tension and vigilance in preparation for future danger and cautious or avoidant behaviours. Anxiety disorders differ from developmentally normative fear or anxiety by being excessive or persisting. However, Anxiety disorders come when a persons level of anxiety is heightened over an extended period of time beyond developmentally appropriate periods. Anxiety disorders differ from one another in the types of objects or situations that induce fear, anxiety, or avoidance behaviour, and the associated cognitive ideation (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Knowing mental health: Anxiety

What do you know about anxiety?

When our young people gain a diagnosis and tell us that they have anxiety it could be one of a number of disorders which come under this umbrella. According to the DSM5 the following diagnoses come under anxiety disorders:

    • Separation anxiety disorder
    • Selective mutism
    • Specific phobia
    • Social anxiety disorder
    • Panic disorder
    • Agoraphobia
    • Generalised anxiety disorder
    • Substance/medication induced anxiety disorder
    • Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition
    • Other specified anxiety disorder
    • Unspecified anxiety disorder

[Tweet “14% of females and 8% of males have experienced an anxiety disorder in the last twelve months”]

We aren’t going to go into detail about all of these here (Phew). What we want to give you is an overview. In time we will go into some detail on these disorders.

Approximately twice as many young women are diagnosed with anxiety disorders as males. 14% of females and 8% of males have experienced an anxiety disorder in the last twelve months this is equivalent to around 435,000 young people in Australia every year.  This mean we are extremely likely to have clients with an anxiety disorder during our career. Anxiety is the number one mental health issue we will find ourselves working with.

Anxiety disorders often have comorbid disorders alongside them so it is important for us to understand the extent of the issues surrounding an anxiety diagnosis. Get to know the diagnostic criteria for these disorders. Know as much as you can about them. Your young people will thank you for it.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Anxiety

Knowing mental health: Anxiety

Anxiety

Don’t empty today of its strength

We kick off mental health week with the most prevalent of disorders, Anxiety. Anxiety robs people of their ability to cope with the turmoil of everyday situations. It robs them of the ability to reach their potential. Most of all it robs them of life. When we speak of anxiety as a brain disorder we are not speaking of the everyday anxieties we feel when we have to do something like driving in heavy traffic or speaking in front of a group. We are speaking of the crippling anxieties that some of us feel that stop us from living life to the full.

When our thinking becomes so disordered by anxiety we cannot do even the most basic tasks. We cannot get out of bed, leave the house or even hold a conversation. Our ability to think clearly and rationally is basically gone. Your limbic system takes control and your primal fight or flight instincts kick in. your frontal lobe, the part of the brain that orders rational thought, has been overridden. All the fears and failures you can imagine are now in control of your thought and actions. You are now in a state of complete primal anxiety.

Add to all of this the fact that adolescence is already a time of storm and stress and we have a setting that is ready to ignite.  Our young people are already experiencing changes in their brains which they are struggling to deal with and on top of that anxiety is nipping at their heals. Any strength that they had to face the daily challenges of being an adolescent is torn away to deal with their anxieties. Grades, relationships, groups, fears, all of these and more conspire against our young people. They set them up for worry and dread.

As youth workers we often provide a first point of contact for young people to address their anxieties. By developing a trusting relationship where young people can confide in us their fears we can support them to begin a journey of recovery. Understanding the triggers, diagnosis and treatment options available to our young people assists us to guide them through the maze of service provision to find the right support options for them. It gives them back the strength they need to beat their anxiety.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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youth workers need to stop mental health stigma

In my class on mental health I often ask if we are beating back the stigma of mental illness. Students often say no… but after some thought and discussion they often change their mind. “We are beating back the stigma of anxiety, depression and body image” they would say. It is then that I ask them, “What would you do if you were running a youth program and one of the participants had a psychotic break?” Most of the students with fear in their eyes speak about keeping all the other participants safe while seeking help for the one having the break. This leads me to ask what they would do if one of their young people was depressed. No fear here, they would just get alongside the young person. Stigma is still very much at the forefront of challenges for mental health.

I agree with my students, we have made leaps forward. But, we still have a long way to go. While we have made great steps forward in areas such as anxiety and depression; eating disorders, schizophrenia and personality disorders to name a few are still very stigmatised. Much of the stigma still comes from fear. We fear that which we don’t know. When was the last time you saw a schizophrenic portrayed as “normal” in the media. they are always touted as weird, scary or worse. What about people with personality disorders how are they portrayed on film?

As youth workers we believe that young people have enough issues without having to add stigma to the list. However we as much as any member of the general public stigmatise mental illness. We don’t mean to do it, but in our fear we allow our prejudices to come to the fore. Fear comes from our lack of knowledge. As the general public knows very little about mental health so it is with youth workers. Even though our clientele are likely to have mental health issues we do not really study it and unless we spend significant personal resources we will have minimal understanding of brain disorders at best.

Mental health is important

We must have an understanding of brain disorders

To stop the stigma of mental illness we must have a solid understanding of the causes, diagnostic criteria, treatment options and recovery options. We need to be better than we are right now. Unfortunately this means going against the grain. I was speaking to an educator recently who believed that because youth workers don’t diagnose we don’t need to know how a diagnosis is formed. It is this antiquated idea of youth work and how we support young people that causes stigma. The same educator could not see why we need to have more than mental health first aid as it is psychologists who will do the work. I mentioned that it was youth workers who often hold the cases and that most psychologists will only give a dozen sessions.

We need to have a better understanding of mental health. It stops the stigma!

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Mental health

Mental health… Do you understand?

Mental health
Mental health is…

Mental health is the leading health issue of our time!

It is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the western world. One in four of our young people will have a diagnosed mental health issue by the age of 25. Many of the leading mental health diagnoses are most prevalent in adolescence. Most of all mental health is an issue of which youth workers must have a rock solid understanding. Unfortunately, most youth work education gives a youth worker a passing knowledge at best… and this is dangerous.

[Tweet “At Ultimate Youth Worker we believe that all youth workers should have a first responder understanding of mental health.”] At Ultimate Youth Worker we believe that all youth workers should have a first responder understanding of mental health. In the same way that paramedics have enough understanding of medicine to save your life and get you to hospital, we believe youth workers should have enough understanding about mental health to assess, triage and refer to mental health clinicians. We need more training. We need more education. We need more understanding.

Most young people are thankful for our empathy and care… but know how limited our knowledge of their issues are. Over the month of October we will be devoting time to help you understand more about mental health. October is mental health month and as a treat each week we will focus on one mental health issue and give you more depth than any course you have ever attended. We want you to be the best you could possibly be, and to do that we want you to have the best resources possible.

Organisations such as BeyondBlue and Headspace have fantastic resources aimed at young people and their families. They give a cursory understanding of the issues and provide a comforting nudge in the direction of support. As a tool for youth worker knowledge however they are limited. As youth workers we are often in a position to first identify mental health issues in young people and as such we need to have a better grasp of the issues. We must gain more than a mental health first aid certificate if we are to truly support our young people to recover their mental health.

Knowledge is power. It is also responsibility.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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