mother and daughter talkingYoung people in Britain say that friends are the first people they turn to when they’re feeling upset, stressed or not as happy as normal, according to a new survey.

Research by anti-stigma campaign Time to Change found that 29% of 16-25-year-olds consorted with friends first, closely followed by their boy/girlfriend or spouse and parents (26% and 24% respectively).

The poll reveals that this is particularly true for the younger age group, with 39% of 16 and 17-year-olds saying they would talk to a friend first if they were going through a tough time, compared to just 17% of 25-year-olds.

The research also revealed the importance of friendship for young people and of being there for each other in difficult times. Nearly 9 in 10 young people (89%) believe it is important to be there for a friend. Keeping in contact via text (60%), visiting friends at their house (59%) and speaking to them on the phone (57%), are the main ways they would be there for a peer going through a tough time.

Further reading: Mental Health Commissioners Network calls for radical change in young people’s mental health services

Sometimes it is the small things that make the difference, according to Time to Change supporter Thea, 18, whose friend Steffi was there for her while she was experiencing depression. “It is not the massive gestures or the giant paragraphs that have made the biggest difference, but the little things,” she said. “It doesn’t take long to send a quick text, but the impact it has is huge. I have received many texts like this from my friend Steffi – all just as important as the first.”

Jo Loughran, head of children and young people at Time to Change, said: “Talking about mental health should be as every day and ordinary as talking about physical health. Through our targeted work with young people we’re hoping to show them that being there for their peers during ups and downs can make a really big difference to their lives.

“Nine in 10 young people report having experienced negative treatment from others because of their mental health problems, and so by challenging attitudes and behaviour from a young age, we can change the way people think about mental health in generations to come.”

To coincide with the survey, Time to Change has launched a collection of YouTube video blogs (vlogs) and e-cards encouraging young people to make more time to talk to friends and support them whatever they’re going through. The animal-themed meme cards have also been distributed to more than 670 schools.

Prominent youth YouTubers such as Boyinaband, VeeOneEye and Kaelyn and Lucy, will share vlogs over the next two weeks to get their audience talking about the importance of spending time with friends. Each vlogger will suggest viewers share an e-card with their friends.