*There’s a rapidly growing epidemic of poor mental health among today’s youth.
It’s a global phenomenon with the potential to get much worse unless physicians and health enthusiasts take larger steps toward identifying lasting solutions.
Across the United States, there’s been a tremendous upswing of mass killings in public schools, and the culprits are often sufferers of mental decay.
The same applies to youth who share their emotional woes on social media, showcasing their anguish for millions to witness firsthand.
In extreme cases, more than a few of these adolescent boys and girls have taken their own lives as others around the world watched in horror on their cell phones and laptops.
Making matters worse, there’s a youth-led subculture within the genre of hip hop that glorifies the use of mind-altering drugs as a coping mechanism for deep anxiety and mental illness.
The aforementioned is contributing to what can be most accurately described as a “lost generation,” characterized by self-mutilation, fatal violence, and a surging dependency on toxic substances that rivals the 1980’s crack epidemic.
As the climate worsens – highlighted by a flourishing heroin outbreak in middle america – there’s a desperate need for influential voices to intervene with messages aimed to promote safe and effective methods of treating poor mental health.
Fortunately, there’s a new, young songstress on the rise whose massive talent pales in comparison to the courage she’s shown her fans by sharing her personal accounts of crippling anxiety and self-doubt.
Zimbabwean born and Melbourne based singer-songwriter, Thandolwethu Emily Nomvula Sikwila (Thando), has been gracing stages around Australia with her electric presence and powerhouse vocals.
Heralded as a commanding performer, her ability to tell a story takes her audience on a journey of loving oneself and reflection. The songstress grew up feasting on the musical offerings of Ladysmith, Black Mambazo, QUEEN and TLC. Along the way, she found Jill Scott and crafted her genre bending sound with an electric live set.
Her 2016 debut EP ‘Digital Love Letters’ paved the road to a slew of festival appearances such as BIGSOUND (2016), Strawberry Fields, Woodford Folk Festival and NYE on The Hill.
With her 2018 breakthrough single ‘Numb’, Thando has since gone onto open for Soul crooner Leon Bridges, R&B master Maxwell, and collaborated with Australian Hip Hop greats, REMI and Sampa the Great.
The multi-dimensional performer is forging forward to solidify her status as Australia’s newest first lady of R&B.
“In my most recent single ‘Happy,’ it’s the first time that I’ve actually addressed any sort of mental health issues because as I’ve gotten older I’ve become less apologetic about being able to own every part of myself,” explains the 25-year-old dynamo. “I’ve started doing a lot of self discovery and a lot of that personal growth has required me to examine my flaws objectively.”
Despite being able to confidently perform in front of giant crowds, Thando shyly conceded that she grapples with deep-rooted anxiety when she’s alone or in the company of her acquaintances.
“I’m naturally a very anxious person,” she confessed with a chuckle. “That anxiety manifests in ugly ways that have jeopardized opportunities I’ve had for professional development or relationships. When I sat down to write ‘Happy,’ it came out of a period where I was panicking that I wouldn’t be able to follow up the single that I had just released and was doing quite well in Australia at the time. But as I began to write, all of my worries and fears about failure ended up on a piece of paper.”
According to recent studies, Thando isn’t alone – the debilitating feeling of anxiety is a challenge that terrorizes millions of young people daily.
One in every four to five youth in the general population meet criteria for a lifetime mental disorder that is associated with severe role impairment and/or distress (11.2 percent with mood disorders, 8.3 percent with anxiety disorders, and 9.6 percent behavior disorders).
A national and international literature review found that an average of 17 percent of young people experience an emotional, mental, or behavioral disorder.
Substance abuse or dependence was the most commonly diagnosed group for young people, followed by anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
The rate of serious mental illness was higher for 18 to 25 year olds (7.4 percent) in 2008 than for any other age group over 18.
In addition, the onset for 50 percent of adult mental health disorders occurs by age 14, and for 75 percent of adults by age 24.
In 2015, 8.1 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 and 8.7 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 had at least one depressive episode. In addition, six percent of 12- to 17-year-olds and 5.4 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds had at least one major depressive episode with severe impairment.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, resulting in 4,513 deaths in 2017. Further, in a survey of private and public high school students:
-13.8 percent reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide
-10.9 percent had made a plan for how they would attempt suicide;
-6.3 percent reported that they had attempted suicide one or more times within the past year; and
-1.9 percent had made a suicide attempt that resulted in an injury, poisoning, or an overdose that had to be treated by a doctor or nurse.
Studies also show that youth from low-income households are at increased risk for mental health disorders.
Twenty-one percent of low-income children and youth ages 6 to 17 have mental health disorders. Fifty-seven percent of these low-income children and youth come from households with incomes at or below the federal poverty level.
Contrastingly, 31 percent of white children and youth receive mental health services compared to 13 percent of children of color.
As these numbers continue to climb in a world that’s ravished by social and political strife, one of Thando’s aspirations is to empower her listeners with lyrics dedicated to self-love and healing.
She recalls feeling ostracized by her white counterparts in Australia, and though she’s justifiably proud of her plus-size figure, there was a stage in her life when she battled with body positivity.
Now, as she navigates the swaying tides of womanhood and sexual freedom, Thando’s music radiates with a contagious sensuality that amplifies greatly during her performances. Her lyrics peppered with positive affirmations and profound rebukes of anxiety-driven unhappiness.
“I have so much love and respect for myself and I know my worth. As long as I’m able to maintain, then I’ll always remain happy,” she mused. “When people listen to my music, I want them to be able to find that self love and essentially learn to define what happiness is to them.”
Thando continued, “In regard to mental health, I know it’s still a taboo subject in communities of color. We’re often encouraged by our friends and loved ones to pray for healing or deliverance, and in many cases we’re so embarrassed that we keep these feelings bottled up. I want to help change that narrative by urging people to get the help they need. It won’t happen by osmosis, and I view prayer as a way to supplement physiological treatment from a professional. That’s why I write music – to inspire lives. It’s the most honest expression of myself so far, and so I’m really excited about what’s to come.”