Academic journal article International Social Science Review

An Analysis of Adolescent Mental Health According to the Social Work Competencies Identified in the Council on Social Work Education

Academic journal article International Social Science Review

An Analysis of Adolescent Mental Health According to the Social Work Competencies Identified in the Council on Social Work Education

Article excerpt

Mental health affects all adolescents through normal developmental or chronic life stressors, and yet, the United States fails to address emotional well-being until it manifests into a diagnosable mental health disorder that interferes with daily life activities and later success in adulthood. The alarming rate at which mental health disorders emerge, coupled with low adolescent engagement in mental health services, affirms the obligation by professionals and students in the social science field to analyze adolescent mental health using non-traditional methods. Critical analysis of existing adolescent mental health research by applying the social work competencies identified by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) provides an innovative framework to comprehensively assess and intervene in adolescent mental health.

Main themes from the social work practice competencies include the 1) Problem Statement, 2) Human Behavior and the Social Environment, 3) Social Work Theory and Practice, 4) Social Welfare Policy and Services, 5) Diversity, 6) Values and Ethics, 7) Social and Economic Justice, and 8) Research. Critical analysis of adolescent mental health by applying the social work competencies uncovers an urgent need to investigate the use of curriculum-based mental health interventions in the United States public school system. Following this critical analysis, a proposed research design outlines further action to be taken by professionals and students in the social science field who intend to improve adolescent mental health. Problem Statement

Going beyond the mere absence of a disorder, the World Health Organization defines mental health as "a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her own community." (1) Currently, research indicates that one in five youth in the United States will suffer from a mental health disorder, with 50 percent of adult disorders emerging before age fourteen and 70 percent before age eighteen. (2) As adolescents transition from childhood to adulthood, they often experience normal developmental stressors or chronic life stressors that have the potential to negatively affect their emotional well-being and later prosperity in adulthood. Be that as it may, research estimates that seventy percent of youth who have a mental health need do not access mental health services. (3) The alarming rate at which mental health disorders emerge, coupled with the lack of accessing mental health services, affirms society's obligation to equip adolescents with necessary knowledge, skills, and resources. Human Behavior and the Social Environment

The most common barriers that prevent adolescents from accessing help are the high levels of stigma associated with mental health and seeking help and low levels of mental health literacy about disorders and treatment. (4) These two factors also contribute to the premature termination of mental health treatment for the thirty percent of adolescents who do seek help. (5) The theory of social stigma best explains the high levels of stigma associated with mental health and seeking help and the theory of cognitive development best explains the low levels of mental health literacy about disorders and treatment.

Erving Goffman's theory of social stigma defines stigma as a mark of disgrace attached to certain characteristics or behaviors that society labels as undesirable. (6) Internalized as early as three years old, stigma solidifies by adulthood as adolescents acquire negative attitudes and engage in social distancing from peers with mental health disorders. (7)

Stigma emerges from the interaction between "normal" adolescents and "abnormal" adolescents through the four social-cognitive processes of cues, stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. (8) Society identifies characteristics associated with mental health disorders, such as physical appearance, impaired social skills, or psychiatric symptoms. …

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