Why we need to talk about Mental Health

There has been a lot of news about the mental health of young people recently. This week, Sarah blogs about the impact poor mental health can have on young people and their lives.

As someone who experienced mental health issues from an early age, this subject is one close to my heart. Whilst the numbers of young people with mental health problems, who self-harm or contemplate or attempt suicide are worrying and upsetting, at least it seems people are realising how much things need to change for those concerned. During my own school days it seemed no one understood how I was feeling, and not once was the subject spoken about in school; even when my teachers realised I was self-harming it was treated more as a ‘teenage phase’ and I was encouraged to ‘just stop doing it’.

Poor mental health can leave people feeling incredibly alone, and the stigma that so often surrounds it frequently discourages sufferers from coming forward. But given that 850,000 young people in the UK have a diagnosable mental health problem, and 75% of those receive no treatment, we need to act to support the future generation.

As it stands, even those who do speak up are not always taken seriously, and given the emotional pain and distress these young people are in, it is hardly surprising that so many are resorting maladaptive behaviours in order to cope. I have distinct memories from my teens of frequently feeling stressed and anxious, I’d make deals with myself, like ‘If I fail this essay, or don’t get my work done, I’ll just end everything.’ Whilst it seems like an extreme thought in hindsight, at the time it seemed like the best and only option.

Research has shown that 32% of young Britons have had suicidal thoughts, whilst 29% of young adults deliberately harmed themselves in their teens. Children and young people are going through their lives carrying feelings of failure and inadequacy, anxiety and hopelessness and quite simply we need to implement change.

Encouragingly, there has been a great deal of talk about mental health lessons becoming part of the national curriculum, something I believe to be essential to the wellbeing of young people. This is a necessity if we are to succeed in prioritising early intervention; something which has been proven to help prevent adult mental health issues.

I have been thrilled to see the launch of a new charity MindFull this week, which provides support and advice about mental health issues for 11-17 year olds. It’s crucial that those affected know where they can turn for help, and given the tech-crazy world we currently live in, this information will now be widely accessible.

Of course it’s not just those suffering at the moment that would benefit from education about mental health; with one in four of us statistically set to experience mental health issues at some point in our lives, starting these conversations early on could help a lot of people years down the line. Not only that, but it would encourage a reduction of stigma among peers, which could encourage those affected to feel safer in speaking out and seeking help.

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