Young people say that pressures in their lives such as bullying and exams are affecting their mental health and have called for more support.
Mental health charity YoungMinds has been consulting with 5,600 young people as part of its YoungMindsVs campaign on the pressures they face and what should be done about them. They revealed the impact that sexual pressure, bullying, school stress, unemployment and a lack of access to help is having on their lives.
For instance, half of the young people consulted by YoungMinds said they had been bullied. Of those, 85% want support for as long as they need it so the bullying stops affecting their lives.
Stress at school and the pressure to get good exam grades was also highlighted as a major concern for young people, with more than half believing they will be a failure if they don’t get good grades. In response, 82% of young people said schools should prepare pupils for life, not just exams, by teaching them how to cope when life is tough.
Sexual pressures were also a concern for many, with more than half of 11-14-year-olds admitting they had viewed online pornography and 4 out of 10 believing it has affected their relationships. Three quarters of respondents said they want sex education that gives them the chance to talk about sex and relationships.
Meanwhile, 72% wanted unemployed young people to get help to deal with the stress and upset caused by being out of work.
Worryingly, 1 in 3 young people said they did not know where to get help when they feel depressed or anxious. To help, 83% called for everyone who works in schools to know how to spot the signs a young person is struggling and how best to help them.
Lucie Russell, director of campaigns at YoungMinds, said: “Young people are growing up with pressure all around them, whether its exam performance, bullying on and offline, 24/7 online culture, sexualisation, low body confidence and bleak futures. So many young people we speak to say that the extreme pressures they face are having a severe impact on their mental health.
“We have to take responsibility for the pressures we are putting children and young people under and wake up to the fact that thousands of them are not able to rise above them and are really suffering. These pressures lead to depression, severe anxiety, eating disorders, self-harm and tragically suicide. Over 5,000 young people have told us loud and clear what needs to be done, their solutions are sensible and doable – we can ignore them or act on them, but if we do nothing we are dismissing and abandoning an entire generation.”
Ben White, a YoungMinds Vs activist added: “Growing up in Britain today isn’t easy. With issues such as bullying, sexual pressures, unemployment and academic stress so rife among the youth of our society. It is no surprise that mental health issues like depression, anxiety, self-harm, eating disorders and even suicide have become so common among young people. Yet it is incredibly difficult to access support services for these issues with many people having to wait months for the help they need.
“It isn’t right that issues like this have become accepted as ‘the way things are’. The future young people face needs to change and it needs to change now.”
Worried about the future
YoungMinds’ findings chime in with a recent report by the National Children’s Bureau with Ipsos Mori. Its report, ‘Who is Generation Next?’ found that 11-16 year olds were deeply worried about their future prospects. Less than 2 in 5 children spoken to believed that they would have better lives than their parents. They also demonstrated anxieties around how they look, whether their family had enough money to live and their future job prospects.
Enver Solomon, director of evidence and impact at the National Children’s Bureau said: “Both our report and the YoungMinds Vs report offer important insights into the experience of today’s children and young people. They face tremendous pressures in their lives and we must listen to their concerns and act on them, ignoring them or hoping young people will just scrape through isn’t an option if we want a healthy, productive future generation.”