We have been working hard delivering our Raise it Up! mental health awareness workshops in schools to help young people identify changes in their mental health and how to act early when they notice changes in a friend.
The feedback has been amazing and, more importantly, hundreds more young people now have practical, usable skills, and information to support each other. Our young people don’t need any more stats on youth mental health. They are crying out, literally, for hands on tools to help make a difference to their mental wellbeing now.
Empowering teenagers to be positive about mental health and to be actively de-stigmatising it is so important. Why? Well, most young people will have a mental health struggle in their adolescence or know someone who does.
Knowledge is power!
So, what can you do?
1. Notice changes in how you or your friend is behaving
A change is a warning sign, it can be anything from withdrawing from their usual activities and isolating themselves, to increasing levels of absence from school or work. Notice if they are just not being their usual self. Some changes to look out for:
- Eating or sleeping too much or too little
- Pulling away from people and usual activities
- Having low or no energy
- Feeling numb or like nothing matters
- Having unexplained aches and pains
- Feeling helpless or hopeless
- Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
- Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
- Yelling or fighting with family and friends
- Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
- Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
- Low self-esteem/self-loathing
- Thinking of harming yourself or others
- Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school
2. What can I do?
- Tell someone you trust that you are worried about yourself or another.
- Be kind to yourself/to your friend.
- Tell them you can see they are suffering.
- Let them know that there is help and they do not need to suffer, nor do you.
- Seek the best support, ask your guidance teacher for a private conversation.
3. What else can I do?
Express yourself. Keep doing the things that you enjoy, especially when it is hard to motivate yourself, that is when you need to push yourself to do something that supports your mental health like:
- Going to your youth club – stay connected with friends not virtually but face to face, do things together
- Eating healthily
- Getting your sleep back into a good pattern
- Be kind and compassionate to yourself, things will get better.
4. Some stats – just in case you needed reminded…
1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue at some point in their life.
That’s 16 million people experiencing issues such as depression, addiction, anxiety, and PTSD.
At any one time, 1/6th of the population will be experiencing a mental health problem.
This means that right now there are at least 10 million children and adults having issues with their mental health and well-being.
1 in 10 schoolchildren have a diagnosable mental health condition.
If children aged between 5 and 16 don’t get the support they need, their problems will get worse. And it’s vital that they get help with their issues now, because:
75% of all mental health problems are established by the time someone is 18.
By not giving children and young people the support they need at a young age, society is allowing their problems to manifest. With the right support at the right time, these problems can be managed and prevented. This is a serious issue because at the moment:
75% of young people who are experiencing mental health problems aren’t receiving treatment.
This problem is largely caused by a lack of available services. Not only would providing more money for support services benefit young people who are experiencing mental health issues, it would also be a good investment, because currently:
The estimated costs of mental health problems in the UK are over £100 billion each year.
This figure includes both the cost of providing treatment for mental health issues, and the cost to the economy from people missing work due to mental health problems. The economic cost of mental health problems should not be underestimated, because:
Mental health is the single largest cause of disability in the UK. In terms of causing disability, mental health is a bigger problem than both cancer and cardiovascular disease. Yet treatment for mental health problems is still woefully inadequate.