What are the challenges in helping young people with their mental health?

With an article in the Psychological Bulletin finding that perfectionism is increasing over time, it’s hardly surprising the mental wellbeing of millenials is under threat.

“Recent generations of young people perceive that others are more demanding of them, [they] are more demanding of others, and are more demanding of themselves”.

Amy, 20, who has suffered from anxiety and depression since the age of 13, says: “The pressure to be the best looking or to have the most likes. Social media comes into play a lot in terms of the pressure on young people”.

Thanks to mobile technology, cyberbullying and online harassment is now constantly available. People are able to continually compare themselves with the apparently perfect lives of others on social media, which can lead to increased pressure on mental health.

A UK eating disorder charity called Beat, published statistics showing the number of hospital admissions across the UK for teenagers with eating disorders nearly doubled in the three years to June 2015 (up by 89 per cent).

And alarmingly in October of 2017 a British Medical Journal article reported a 70 per cent increase in teenagers self harming.

The government consultation, Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision’, which closes on the 2nd of March 2018, announced that the Chief Medical Officer will produce a report on the impact of technology on the health of young people.

Amy describes her mental health issues starting: “the day before my grandad’s funeral, I discovered my five closest friends had created a hate page about me on Facebook, listing everything they hated about me”.

“With the internet, everyone’s so much more connected now. With that hate page, I could sit there re-reading it for hours without them knowing that I was seeing it. It didn’t just stay in school, it followed me home, wherever I went. It was in my pocket, on my phone. And I think that’s the problem now with social media, that there’s no escape. Fifty years ago you get bullied at school, you go home and the bullies aren’t there. Nowadays wherever you go the bullies are still there”.

Young people face other stresses too. Arguably since Ofsted was set up in 1992, the number of tests, exams and ways of measuring academic performance have increased.

Jay Thompson, a mental health nurse who runs a mental health first aid training service, points out the value of having a more balanced approach in education.

“Yes, academic stuff is important but the non-formal: being physically active, good diet, access to support networks is key to building resilience in young people. We talk about physical health in sport and fitness, but we kind of ignore how we feel about ourselves and others and our outlook on the world”.

So what can be done to improve young people’s wellbeing?

Ways to stop a panic attack
Healthline Networks, a worldwide provider of health information, released tips to stop a panic attack to have access to immediate and informed self-help.

This is the second part of a three part story on young people’s mental health.

Part 1: What is it like for a young person with mental illness in the UK?

Part 3: What is being done to make things better?

Editor: Martin Steers
Feature writer and Researcher: Caroline Paul
Video-editing and Sub-editing: Tom Geggus
Social Media Editor: Jane Bracher
Images and Graphics: Megha Sharma

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