By Harriet and Jasmin
Research has shown that mental health in young people is far more widespread than previously thought. Statistics show that the proportion of 15/16 year olds reporting that they often feel anxious or depressed has doubled in the last 30 years. The number of young people calling Childline for help has increased 110% from 2011, and around 1 in 4 young people have self-harmed on one occasion. In a 2016 survey for ParentZone, 93% of teachers reported seeing increased mental illness among children and teenagers, and 90% thought the issues were becoming more severe, with 62% dealing with a pupil’s mental health issue at least once a month. Separate research by YoungMinds, on just over 700 teachers, found that almost three quarters of teachers would often or occasionally worry about a particular pupil’s wellbeing in their free time. However, over a third had not had any training to deal with a pupil’s mental health issues, and a quarter said that they would not know how, or when to refer a young person in mental distress in the direction of help.
A survey of 150 young people, ranging from the age of 11 to the age of 18, taken in March 2017, concluded that although 89% of young people were aware of how to get support, 85% had been affected or knew a young person who was affected by mental health issues. Common causes were thought to be social media, the internet, time on phones, and pressure from exams and elsewhere. A few people also thought that it was deemed ‘attractive’ to have a mental health disorder, or used in order to gain attention. Several thought that mental illnesses had increased because people had become more aware of them; meaning they were becoming diagnosed more accurately and often. There were some people who believed that there was a lack of support or a large stigma around mental health, and people were too afraid to ask for help.
The number of people that had been affected or knew a young person who was affected by mental health issues increased from 72% of surveyed Year 7s and 8s, to 89% of year 9s, to 100% of year 11’s and Sixth Form. When 2 sixth formers were asked why they thought this was, they replied that they thought it was due to increased pressures and responsibilities as one becomes older, and also an increased awareness of the world around them and the consequences of their actions.
A teacher commented that these results show the pressure that society places on exam results, and also the pressure that students often place on themselves to do well.
Only 14% of suicides aged under 20 had been in contact with specialist mental health services prior to committing suicide. If you have a friend or are affected by mental health issues yourself, but are too afraid to ask for help, the hardest step is accepting the need for help. Everyone needs help at some point in their lives, and there is nothing shameful about it. It is important that everyone knows how to access help, and there are plenty of anonymous sites happy to help if you do not want to speak to someone face to face (although this is recommended), such as Childline, Samaritans, Mind Infoline, Rethink Mental Illness Advice Line, CAMS, Saneline, Elefriends and more. If you are worried about someone else’s health, and their safety, you should encourage them to seek help.