The reasons for legally considering someone an adult at 18 make perfect sense in most respects, but when dealing with an issue as sensitive as mental health, treatment specific to those who fall into this gap seems necessary.
The crux of the problem seems to be that 18 is considered legal adult age, which comes with lots of responsibilities, but the center of the brain that controls logic and reasoning isn’t fully developed until the mid to late 20s. Students, including those at SF State, bear the blunt end of this pressure.
They have to make decisions that could drastically alter their future at a young age.
A friend I grew up with has been in and out of different facilities from a young age because of his struggle with bipolar disorder. He experienced adult mental facilities at age 20 and it scared him. It made him terrified; it didn’t help him. He was handed some pills and put into group therapy with people who kept cycling through the ward.
If there was a facility that had similar mental health needs and brain development, the experience could have been more beneficial.
He is now 28; his medications are stabilized and he has not been committed to a facility for five years.
He felt given up on in the adult wards, but when he was in adolescent wards he felt as though they genuinely cared about him. They gave him the tools he needed to get better.
According to the SF State crime log, there were nine reported suicide attempts and four reported anxiety attacks on campus last semester that required campus police assistance. So far this semester, there have been six suicide attempts on campus.
Four of those nine students were committed to adult mental health institutions. But their brains aren’t adult yet. So did they get the care they really needed?
The issue with adult mental health wards is that the frontal lobe isn’t fully developed until the mid 20s, or as late as 27 in some cases. This part of the brain is commonly referred to the center for higher reasoning and helps rationalize emotional impulses.
The care of these young people should take this into account. Having a “young” brain in an adult body can make it difficult to differentiate facts from feelings. This makes it easier to become overwhelmed by emotions, resulting in anxiety attacks or the need for commitment to a mental facility.
“Of course people are going to respond differently to therapy,” said Derethia Duval, a licensed marriage and family therapist and director of the Counseling and Psychological Services Center at SF State. “But, people of all ages can absorb therapy and can change from it.”
The mental health field needs to establish a middle ground between a legal adult and a psychologically-developed adult.
The services need to teach more coping skills and work to develop that pause in thinking before reacting that can be crucial to controlling emotional impulses.
Having facilities or wards that are specifically trained to deal with mental health issues in the college age demographic would make getting the proper help needed a lot easier.