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UK youth struggle with some of the poorest mental wellbeing in the world

Rachael Newham

13 Feb, 2017


UK young people reportedly suffer some of the worst mental health in the world. Rachael Newham explores why, and asks what can be done about it.


Another week, another piece of research highlighting the struggles of our young people. This time, it’s the news that young people in the UK have the poorest mental wellbeing in the world – with the exception of Japan.

The idea that school days are the best days of our lives has been steadily demolished over the past few years and writer Emily Reynolds outlines five ways that governmental policy is making our young people some of the unhappiest in this Guardian article.

With budgets being squeezed both in mental health care and education despite promises to the contrary, it is getting harder and harder for young people to access the care they need until they reach crisis point and when they do get help it’s hundreds of miles from home.

One of the interesting points Reynolds raises is that despite promises from the Prime Minister and high profile work highlighting mental health in young adults - it’s still not taken seriously enough.

The idea that mental illness is a result of some kind of moral failing or inherent weakness in this generation still pervades society, the “this didn’t happen in my day” rhetoric and idea of ‘generation snowflake’ means that we make it even harder for people to admit they’re struggling.

So what’s the answer?

We need to get a better understanding of mental health issues. There is no doubt that as a society – as a church we’ve made great steps forward in our awareness of mental illness. We know it’s happening - but we still don’t know how to help.

We need more research into what interventions actually help young people who are living with mental illness; rather than simply offering the same therapy for every treatment from Post Traumatic Stress to Depression. The research budget for mental health amounts to £8 per person affected compared to illnesses like cancer receiving £178 of research per person - and only 30% of that £8 is allocated to researching young people’s mental health.

It’s great news that we are talking about mental health more – but unless there are actions resulting from the conversations the situation won’t change.

So what can we do?

As individuals we can't force rises in mental health research and treatment budgets - but we can keep talking, keep campaigning and keep offering our young people the hope we hold.

We can’t change systems single-handedly – we can offer hope to one young person at a time.

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