When it comes to mental health, you’ll see a lot of information out there about the impact it has, both positive and negative. Especially now, with a pandemic wreaking havoc on the nationals mental health, it’s never been more important to highlight and normalise mental health struggles, and make help easy to access.
But the problem we see is that most of the focus is on the struggles adults are facing, and how it impacts their lives. And while adults definitely do need support, we feel that it’s also important to shine a light on the mental health issues that teenagers and young adults face every day – and how that can impact their adult lives.
Mental Health Is A Big Issue
Mental health is, and always has been, a big issue for young people. Beyond the fact that their brains aren’t fully developed yet, and they are in the throes of some pretty big hormonal changes, they are making some big leaps in personal and social development. This can cause all sorts of small issues, which usually fall under the label of ‘puberty’. The problem comes when bigger issues, like depression or anxiety, are swept under the rug of ‘teenage moodiness’ and not taken seriously. Because even though they aren’t adults yet, teens can still struggle with their mental health, and without the right support and resources to help them manage their feelings, it could potentially spiral into something much worse.
Just to highlight how much of an issue mental health is for young people in this country, here are a few statistics from youth mental health charity YoungMinds:
- 1 in 8 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder. That’s roughly 3 children in every classroom.
- 1 in 6 children between 16 and 14 have symptoms of common mental disorders – mainly depression and anxiety disorder.
- Half of all mental health problems will manifest by the age of 14.
- 75% of mental health problems will manifest by age 24.
- In 2017, suicide was the single most common cause of death for both boys (16.2%0 and girls (13.3%) between the ages of 5 and 19.
Bringing it Into Adulthood
As you might expect, if a young person is struggling with mental health problems, they don’t just disappear when they turn 18. In fact, if they haven’t had access to the right kind of support or resources, it can have a pretty significant impact on their adult life. Around 1 in 3 adults with mental health conditions relate directly to adverse experiences in childhood, and are 4 times more likely to have lower general levels of mental wellbeing.
Of course, we can’t really talk about mental health without mentioning Covid-19. It’s been a disruptive force on all of our lives, but for children, teens and young adults, the effects are much more significant than in adults. A loss of routine, a breakdown in formal support and isolation from key friendship groups and socialisation that’s essential for their development, teens and young adults are feeling increasingly ‘cut off’ from the most important things in their world. The number of reports of anxiety and depression has skyrocketed, with many young people expressing the need to take control of their life, feeling out of control, or frustrated at the wider response to the pandemic. And for those who had gone back to school (when they were open), 69% said their mental health was worse when they returned, 40% said that there was no counsellor available to support students, and 23% said there was less mental health support available compared to before the pandemic. There is no doubt that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on young people, and you can read the full report here.
Now here’s the real issue. Because while the NHS knows that children and teenagers mental health is a concern, the support sadly isn’t really there. Less than 1 in 3 young people with a diagnosable mental health condition can get access to NHS treatment, and the average wait time is about 5 weeks for initial assessment, and 9 weeks for treatment to start. During which time many parents report that their child’s mental health deteriorated significantly through frustration and long wait times. And since less than 1% of the total NHS budget is spent on children and young people’s mental health services, that probably isn’t going to change any time soon.
So how can parents support their children when they’re struggling with mental health issues? Firstly, understand that being there for your child includes acknowledging their distress, and reassuring then that you won’t be angry, shocked or frightened by their thoughts and feelings. Language like ‘I feel for you and I’m here for you’, ‘I can see this is very hard for you’, or ‘I want to help, if you feel able to let me’ can be effective in helping your child feel able to open up, and is the starting point for getting them the support they need.
If you need support during the wait for the NHS, or want to provide the resources and tools to help your child understand, work through and manage their struggles, then downloading the MELP app could help. MELP provides access to a range of tools and techniques for handling mental health struggles, as well as access to trained professionals who can help support your child. If you would like to find out more, just get in touch with the team today.