There is one age group that is often overlooked when it comes to mental health awareness. As we age and tackle the stresses that adulthood brings, we tend to habitually think of our younger years fondly. We forget that being a child comes with it’s own stresses, and in doing so we set aside youth mental health struggles and disorders.
Each year on the 7th September, charities and organisations work together to bring awareness to a very important cause that is typically neglected: Youth Mental Health Day. Even in a modern world, mental health is seen by many as a taboo subject. Many sufferers feel uncomfortable opening up about their issues, for fear of judgement and appearing weak.
What Are the Youth and Mental Health Statistics?
According to the World Health Organisation, studies of youth mental health suggest that one in six people struggling mentally are aged 10-19 years.
Today, an estimate of almost 1 billion people are battling a mental disorder, or are facing daily negative thoughts and feelings. When looking at the stats, it becomes clear just how important it is to talk about mental health among youth.
Globally, depression is one of the leading causes of illness and disability among our young people. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15-19 year olds. Of global disease and injury in those aged 10-19 years, 16% are attributed to mental health ailments and disorders – and the number is rising.
Half of all mental health conditions worldwide begin at age 14, when most young people experience puberty. However, the majority of these conditions go undetected, resulting in failure to receive treatment when needed. In low-income countries, more than 75% of people battling a mental health disorder do not receive treatment. As a result of this, every 40 seconds a person dies by suicide.
Many of these youth mental health facts were documented pre-covid. It’s vital to note that youth mental health issues have been steadily increasing in the last 18 months, due to strict isolation and online schedules, and the stresses of returning to school after an extended period of time.
The two most common mental health issues in youth which have increased notably during and following the lockdown period are: depression in young people, and stress in young people.
Causes of Mental Health Issues in Youth
At some point in time, all of us will experience trauma. Certain traumas that happen early on in a person’s life can have serious implications mentally. These hardships can increase the likelihood of developing mental conditions if support, such as counselling and therapy, is not sought.
Some risk factors which may increase the likelihood of a young person developing mental health problems include:
These factors include:
- The death of a loved one
- Guardians divorce or separation
- Experience bullying or discrimination
- Facing long-lasting difficulties at school
- Poverty or homelessness
- Experiencing a long-term physical illness
- Caring for a vulnerable relative
- A parent or guardian who struggles with substance abuse or has been in trouble with the law
- A parent or guardian that struggles with a mental health condition
Not all young people who experience these troubles will go on to struggle mentally. However, children and young people who are more prone to these conditions may experience a decline in mental health, following a traumatic time in their life.
Social Media and Mental Health in Youth
Another common and recent factor which has been noted to increase mental health issues in children and young adults, is the frequent use of social media platforms. There is a proven correlation between social media and mental health in young people, mainly due to the pressures of attaining an unrealistic body type or standard, or keeping up with unattainable popularity and social pressures.
Children and young adults are persistently exposed to false body types that have been altered using apps such as Facetune and Peachy, which can completely alter a person’s face and body in both photo and video content.
Mental Health and the LGBT+ Community
Studies have shown that the group most commonly affected with mental health issues are the LGBT+ community.
Mental health issues in LGBT youth aren’t directly caused by being part of the LGBT community, however, the people within this community are often subject to hardships such as discrimination, homophobia or transphobia, social isolation, rejection and difficulty in coming out to friends and family.
Mental health in LGBT youth is particularly apparent in transgender young people, with almost half of trans people having thoughts about taking their life at some point in time. Transgender youth mental health can be a sensitive and tricky subject to approach, and must be handled with care and discretion. Talking about mental health with youth is vital to break the stigma and allow young people to become more comfortable with talking about their thoughts and feelings.
Mental Health Q&A With Kellie Johnson
This is our wonderful Kellie! Kellie is the National Scheduling Coordinator, for Johnsons 1871. She recently attended a course of extensive mental health seminars as part of Johnsons 1871 employee training.
To shine some light on Youth Mental Health Day, we asked Kellie some vital questions about the signs and symptoms to look out for, how to approach a situation where someone may be struggling mentally, and how to prevent mental health issues in youth from progressing:
What are the signs to look out for in young people?
“Any significant changes in a young person’s behaviour or persona could be a sign that they are struggling with their mental health. The common signs of poor mental health we could look out for in young people include a change in personality, such as becoming withdrawn, angrier or more irritable than usual, a sense of hopelessness, consistently seeming down or increased anxiety. You may also notice that they have stopped taking care of themselves properly, e.g. unwashed hair/clothes, or perhaps they may have developed compulsive behaviours, such as switching light switches on and off, or nail biting.”
How can you approach the subject, if you think a young person may be struggling?
“The best way to approach a young person who appears to be struggling with their mental health would be to identify signs of distress, and approach them in confidence. Sensitively disclose that you have noticed a change in their behaviour, and invite them to talk about it with you. It’s important not to pry or force someone to talk about their mental health if they’re not ready or decline your invitation.
A more caring and open approach should be taken. You should respond in a comforting and optimistic manner, without insisting that everything will be OK. Sometimes young people just want to get things off their chest without receiving advice or opinions on their problems. Occasionally it can be helpful to share your own experiences to help them open up, however, it’s important not to take the focus away from their situation, so ensure you assess the situation beforehand.
The next step would be signposting the young person to any groups, helplines, apps or professional support that could benefit them. There are a wide variety of youth mental health charities, some aimed at a broad spectrum of issues, and some catering to specific conditions.”
What should you do if someone approaches you regarding their mental health?
“If you don’t have any mental health qualifications or experience, it’s best to just listen. Invite them to talk about what’s bothering them without judgement. Do your best to make them feel comfortable and ask them if there is anything you can do to help. Check in with them regularly by asking how they are and assuring them that you will make time for them if they need to talk further.”
What free resources are available for young people?
“There are a number of mental health facilities for youth, including helplines that young people can call. Such as, Samaritans, Mind, YoungMinds, Mental Health Foundation, Relate and SANE, to name a few. However, in this day and age young people may prefer to use an app, such as Student Health App, Calm Harm, Be Mindful, Hub of Hope or DistrACT. There are a wide variety of apps for young people to choose from, for their own specific needs.
I would also encourage young people to approach anyone they feel comfortable talking to about their issues. It’s always better to get things off your chest instead of bottling up negative feelings and thoughts. Keeping things in can have a knock on effect when someone is feeling low or losing control, worsening the situation.
Some valuable, free resources young people can use are local GP services, or calling the NHS non-emergency line ‘111’ who can refer them for counselling and local support services.”
Youth Mental Health Facilities and Support Lines
There are some amazing options available when it comes to free mental health support for young people. Some great support lines are:
- Samaritans: Call 116 123 (free from any phone)
- SANEline: Call 0300 304 7000 (4.30pm–10.30pm every day)
- Calm: Call 0800 58 58 58 (5pm–midnight every day)
- The Mix UK: Under 25s, call 0808 808 4994 (Sunday-Friday 2pm–11pm)
- Papyrus HOPELINEUK: Under 35s call 0800 068 4141 (weekdays 10am-10pm, weekends 2pm-10pm and bank holidays 2pm–10pm), email email@example.com or text 07786 209 697
- Nightline Association: If you’re a student, you can look on the Nightline website to see if your university or college offers a night-time listening service. Nightline phone operators are all students too.
- Switchboard LGBT+: If you identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you can call 0300 330 0630 (10am–10pm every day). Phone operators all identify as LGBT+
- C.A.L.L: If you live in Wales, you can call 0800 132 737 (open 24/7) or you can text ‘help’ followed by a question to 81066.
For a full list of free mental health support services for young people, visit the Mind website here
Many of these helplines can offer extended support for those struggling long-term. Such as, group and one-to-one counselling/therapy sessions; health and wellness programs for youth; courses on youth mindfulness; and information on a child and youth mental health walk in clinic local to the young person.
Mental Health Apps for Youth UK
The NHS has a fantastic list of apps for young people, for a variety of different mental health issues and symptoms. Share this list with your young loved ones who may be struggling, or give them a try yourself, here