This year’s World Mental Health Day is focusing on young people and mental health in a changing world. Today’s young people have more opportunities than previous generations, but they also face unique pressures.
The pressure to do well academically, poverty, bullying, and the damaging effects of social media all contribute to the situation we’re in now, where 1 in 10 young people suffer from mental illness at any given time.
The importance of acting early
Mental illness often starts when young people are in their teens or early adulthood, and it’s so important that they get the help and support they need so that they grow up to become happy, well-rounded people who can reach their potential. The government have announced that they aim to have at least one member of staff in every school trained in Mental Health First Aid, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.
With younger people just as with adults, mental health is not given the same importance as physical health, even though one really can’t exist without the other. Only 25% of young people with a mental health issue get the treatment and support that they need.
Young people’s mental health: the facts
When you read the facts, you’ll see why helping young people get the right support for their mental health is crucial.
– 10% of children and young people aged between 5 and 16 have a clinical mental health problem
– 50% of mental illnesses appear by the age of 14
– The most common cause of death for those aged 5-19 is suicide
– 27% of students say they have a mental health problem that stops them from doing day to day tasks
– 80% of young people say that pressure to do well in exams has impacted upon their mental health
Spotting the signs of mental illness in young people
Mental health can be difficult for many people to talk about, but imagine being a child or young person and not knowing which way to turn. Even if they don’t tell you that something is wrong, you can learn to spot the signs of mental illness in young people. Watch out for:
– Changes in appetite
– Alcohol and/or drug misuse
– Trouble sleeping, or feeling tired all the time
– Unexplained aches and pains
– Being silent or withdrawn
– Being unable to concentrate or remember things
– Doing less well at school, college, or university
– Being disruptive or aggressive
– Taking risks
– Poor personal hygiene
How to talk to a young person about their mental health
If you spot any signs that a young person might be struggling with their mental health, you can start the conversation and help them open up so they can get the help they need. If you work with or care for a young person, you’re in the perfect position to support them. Here’s how:
– Sit with them in a quiet place
– Tell them they aren’t in trouble
– Be aware of your body language and how you communicate
– Show empathy and don’t be judgemental, or say unhelpful things like ‘cheer up.’
– Ask questions about how long they have been struggling, how they are feeling right now, and how you can help
– Listen to what they say, don’t interrupt
– Show that you’ve understood what they’ve said by repeating it back to them in your own words
– If they don’t volunteer much information, pay attention to their non-verbal communication, which can sometimes reveal more about how they are feeling
– Make sure they know that you’re always there to talk to
– Tell them about different ways they can get support- from their GP, from online or print resources, from helplines, through their school, college, or university, or through mental health charities. Offer to go with them if they need support to access resources
Train in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA)
Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) is an internationally recognised training course, which teaches people how to spot the symptoms of mental ill health in young people and how to provide initial support. Anyone aged 16 or over can attend a course, and there are different courses tailored towards the level of knowledge that you need.
One Day YMHFA: This course teaches you how to spot the signs of mental illness and how you can help a young person get the help they need. After completing this course, you’ll be a qualified Youth Mental Health Champion.
Two Day YMHFA: This course goes into more depth about specific mental health issues and it looks at unique issues that young people face today like cyber bullying. After completing this course, you’ll be a qualified Youth Mental Health First Aider.
Why do a course?
The courses will increase your awareness of mental health issues and give you the practical skills to support a young person to get the help they need. The sooner problems are identified and treated, the more likely a young person is to completely recover.
Do you want to learn how to support young people with mental health problems and promote their emotional wellbeing?