13 Dec 2021  |  Daniel Storey

As someone who works for a youth organization, and as a young person myself, I thought I’d reflect upon how mental illness affects young people, and the always growing problem it’s becoming.

Rates of mental ill-health among young people have steadily risen over the years:

According to the NHS Mental Health of Children and Young People 2021 Report, the rates of probable mental disorders among 6-16 year-olds has increased from 1 in 9 in 2017, to 1 in 6 in 2020. This was almost identical in 17-19 year-olds, with rates of probable mental disorders being 1 in 10 in 2017, and rising to 1 in 6 in 2020.

It’s becoming more and more evident that mental ill-health among young people is not so much an issue, as it is a crisis.

The Children Society reports that in the last three years, the likelihood of young people having a mental health problem has increased by 50%. They also state that 75% of young people with mental health problems aren’t getting the help they need.

This is a clear indication that as a result of a number of factors, a vast amount of young people are suffering with mental ill health, and aren’t receiving adequate support. These factors are multifaceted, and race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation all have a part to play in the problem. However, for this article, I want to look more broadly at some factors that have been affecting all young people; the COVID-19 pandemic and the different branches that span from it.

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns have affected young people in a number of ways; in education, finance, physical and mental wellbeing. 

Research conducted by the YMCA, in its Youth Affairs Report 2021, shows that in early May 2020, one-third of 18-24 year-olds (excluding full-time students) had been furloughed or lost their main job. By contrast, less than 15% of 35-44 year-olds fell into these categories.

This loss of finance and the resulting pressures of finding other employment create their own stresses around paying bills, buying basic living resources and, for those without permanent housing, keeping a roof over their head.    

The Co-op Media Report – September 2021 shows that almost half of 10-15 year-olds feel they have fallen behind in school as a result of the pandemic, and 29% of 13-25 year-olds say they are less likely to go into further education entirely due to the pandemic.

These transcend just present-day issues as they affect young people’s futures too, regarding job opportunities, qualifications, housing, supporting themselves, self-esteem and their mental health.

The Youth Affairs Report highlights this, stating that 56% of young people surveyed worried about falling/having fallen behind in school and 41% worried about finding a job.

Virtual schooling and unemployment has had not just an adverse impact on young people’s education and economic situation, but on their social interactions too; with 77% of those surveyed reporting feeling more lonely and isolated. Throughout 2020 and early 2021, those in the 16-29 age group were more likely to report chronic loneliness than the 60-and-over group. Furthermore, young adults (under 30) were more likely to report stress and anxiety than any other age group.

Social interactions are vital for young people, for current-day wellbeing, and for future self-esteem and confidence. Heightened stress and anxiety levels will diminish a person’s motivation to socialise, which snowballs into long-term effects; such as depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental health conditions etc.

It’s imperative that we recognise the importance of mental health in young people, and how poor mental health has not just a short-term impact, but a long-term impact too.

It’s compelling to see that attitudes towards mental health are changing for the better. Society is becoming more and more accepting that mental ill health is a problem, and that stigmas around it are outdated and damaging. Hopefully over time, as we continue to discredit stigmas around mental health, it will become a catalyst for change.

I hope this has encouraged you to reflect on the topic, and how mental health affects yourself and any young people around you.     

This is part of the work that ESTEEM does, offering a supportive space each week for young adults to be themselves, build their confidence, and improve their mental health. Through our Christmas Appeal, we’re asking for your help to provide these services to young people over the festive period and the coming year. 

Find our about our Christmas Appeal here

Article written by Media Assistant Dan.


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