Several societal issues can negatively impact the mental health of younger adults and contribute to substance use as a coping mechanism. These issues can create stress, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness, leading some to turn to substances as a way to escape or numb their emotions.
Addressing these issues requires a comprehensive approach that includes education, awareness, access to mental health support, and building resilient coping skills.
By addressing the root causes of mental health challenges and providing healthier alternatives to substance use, we can create a more supportive environment for young individuals to thrive.
For those who are struggling, WakeUp Carolina offers Creighton’s House, a non-twelve-step, peer-led, all-recovery meeting for young adults. This is a safe space for any young adult who suffers from any type of substance use.
Some key societal issues that can harm young adults’ mental health and potentially lead to substance use include:
Peer Pressure and Social Norms
The pressure to fit in, especially during adolescence, can lead to experimentation with substances to gain acceptance or approval from peers. Social norms that glorify alcohol or drug use can also influence behavior.
High expectations for academic performance can lead to stress, anxiety, and burnout. Some students may use substances to cope with the pressure or stay awake to study, leading to a dangerous cycle.
Bullying and Cyberbullying
Bullying, whether in-person or online, can lead to feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, and depression. Substance use might be seen as a way to escape the pain caused by bullying.
Dysfunctional family dynamics, such as conflict, neglect, or abuse, can contribute to mental health issues in young individuals. Substance use may be a way to numb the pain or escape a difficult home environment.
Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
Traumatic events or experiences in childhood, such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, or household dysfunction, can increase the risk of both mental health issues and substance use as a way to cope with trauma.
Media and Peer Influences
Exposure to media that glorifies substance use, as well as the influence of friends or online communities that promote drug use, can normalize the behavior and make it seem like a viable coping strategy.
Lack of Access to Mental Health Services
Many young individuals struggle with mental health issues, but not all have access to appropriate care or support. Without proper treatment, they may turn to substances as a way to self-medicate.
Stigma Around Mental Health
Societal stigma and misconceptions surrounding mental health can prevent young individuals from seeking help. This lack of support can drive them towards self-destructive behaviors like substance use.
Financial difficulties faced by families or the pressure to meet personal financial goals can contribute to stress, anxiety, and a sense of helplessness, leading some to use substances as a way to cope.
Cultural and Identity Struggles
Young individuals from marginalized or minority communities might face unique challenges related to cultural identity, discrimination, and social exclusion, which can impact mental health and lead to substance use.
Lack of Positive Outlets
Limited access to recreational activities, creative outlets, or safe spaces for expression can leave some young individuals with few healthy ways to cope with stress or boredom.