With young people facing so many challenges today (such as bullying, pressure of high academic achievement, fear of not finding work coupled with student debt, domestic abuse, family breakdown etc), mental health illness is higher than in any previous generation. Yet the NHS only spends 0.6% of its budget on children’s mental health issues. The impact of social media on the well being of preteens and teens is now also being looked at, with researchers describing this phenomen as ‘facebook depression’- defined as depression and low self esteem that develops when preteens and teens spend too much time on social media sites such as FB, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr. (source: GS O”Keefe, K Clarke-Pearson – Pediatrics, 2011). The pressure of being perfect, of living the life witnessed on reality shows is becoming too overwhelming and leading to poorer mental health (poor sleep quality, depression, anxiety, low self esteem) amongst young people.
Mental health illness can occur at any age, at any stage of life. It does not matter whether you are male or female, rich or poor, where you live, how old you are or what ethnic group you belong to.
One in four people in the UK experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of the year (http://mind.org.uk/). 1 in 10 children and young people have a mental health diagnosis in the UK (www.mentalhealth.org.uk). 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 24 (www.mentalhealth.org.uk). Between one in every 12 and 1 in 15 children and young people deliberately self harm (www.youngminds.co.uk). Anxiety, depression, self-harming, eating disorders are the most common mental health disorders in children and young people. More often than not socio-economic factors do not play as big a role as you would assume, but a combination of environmental, biological and psychological factors do. http://www.thekimfoundation.org/html/about_mental_ill/causes.html.
Mental health illness amongst young people is rising with many people not receiving the necessary care they require to support their condition. The emotional wellbeing of a child is just as important as their physical health. Good mental health begins in infancy and early diagnosis in childhood can prevent the development of disorders later on in life, but with the current lack of education and acceptance, 3 in 4 young people suffer alone, staying quiet about their mental health illness, for fear of being stigmatised.
We all have moments when we can feel anxious, down, or angry but it’s when these feelings persist for a long period of time or begin to interfere with the daily running of your life, that they may become a mental health issue. Mental health illness is still an unspoken word and for many sufferers and their families it is like a black cloud hanging over their head. It’s a subject that no one really wants to talk about, to fully confront. It affects not just the sufferer but family relationships, loved ones and friends. Too many families are being torn apart by mental health following the loss of a loved one. You can be ill with mental health and yet look absolutely fine. If you have cancer you are offered sympathy and yet if you suffer from mental health you are expected to snap out of it. Can you imagine if physical illness was treated the same way as mental illness and someone being diagnosed with diabetes or a stroke, was told to change their mindset and they would then feel better?
Bill Clinton once said ‘Mental health is nothing to be ashamed of but stigma and bias shame us all.” Major celebrities such as Cara Delevigne, Demi Lovato, Jared Padelecki, Ruby Wax, Jim Carey, John Green and Sarah Silverman have come forward breaking the silence about their own suffering with mental health illness in the hope of increasing public understanding and raising awareness of the issue. But that is not enough. We all need to be doing something to eliminate the stigma, to support our friends, their families, our colleagues. To stop them from having to wear a happy mask and hide how they are really feeling inside.
By changing the attitude and behaviour of others towards mental health, we can help these young people and parents to understand that it is not a sign of weakness to be open about their child’s mental health and wellbeing and it’s ok to ask for help. The experience of stigma can sometimes be worse than the symptoms themselves so let’s help improve the lives of those experiencing mental health illness in any small way that we can. We can start by sharing some understanding.
Let them know they are not alone. Encourage them to talk about their condition. Don’t let them suffer in silence.
Be accepting of who they are. Do not lecture them.
Don’t tiptoe around them. Treat them like any other normal person.
Don’t label people with a mental illness. People are people not diagnoses.
Don’t be afraid of people with mental illness
Don’t use disrespectful language for people with mental illness. Treat them with respect and compassion.
Don’t blame people with mental illness. It is not their fault.
Be a role model. Educate your family, family, co-workers to behave/think more positively on this subject.
Show kindness and support to those supporting others with mental illness.
And why have I chosen to write about this? I am a Life Coach and Mentor who works with various charities. I frequently witness people who suffer with mental health illness and struggle, predominantly, with the lack of care available and the associated stigma.
We need to take a stand, change the way people think and give them the support they need and deserve. Young people after all are the future.