As someone who was diagnosed at 16 and struggles with mental health problems in my daily life, both with anxiety and depression, I firmly believe youth mental health needs more focus and attention in the media and public eye.
Around 50% of mental health problems are diagnosed by aged 16 and 75% by 24, yet there is still an attitude amongst many that people are too young to suffer, and struggles are frivolously labelled as “phases” that people will grow out of in due course. The attitudes I have received from some people are that my mental illness is not serious, therefore it is clear that stigma still remains amongst some people. For young people to grow up strong, resilient and have better mental health it is vital that these attitudes are challenged and that nobody is made to feel ashamed for suffering with their mental health. No matter what your age you can suffer with a mental health problem and no struggle should be seen as invalid on the basis of age, therefore education is vital! Currently, young people are taught little to nothing about their mental health and this is becoming extremely damaging in such an ever-changing world. If youngsters are told no information or made aware of mental wellbeing, we simply cannot expect them to take mental health seriously or know when themselves or someone else is struggling. My school also followed the same trend in that we were taught absolutely nothing about mental health. For that reason, the people who were open about their struggles were “frowned upon” and discriminated against for talking about their emotions.
From my own experience, I only realised I was struggling when my mum picked up on it and I really wish the education was there. Throughout school we had countless assemblies and talks around drugs, alcohol, internet safety, sex education etc, however absolutely nothing around mental health and the chances are many students, like me, were and are struggling without even knowing and not getting the help they need.
Only now because I am aware of my condition do I understand how it affects me and how to cope. For me, mental illness affects my life on a daily basis and particularly the decisions I make. My anxiety means I struggle to go out, meet new people and subsequently form friendships with people. This is turn makes me more isolated and continues that vicious cycle of feeling anxious and depressed. While now I am more open, so many people suffer in silence when struggling with a mental illness and I want to use my experiences to raise awareness and encourage those people to speak out themselves.
Moving forward, lets focus our attention on increasing the conversation around mental health and emphasising the needs of our young people. Even the smallest things can make the biggest difference!
Thanks for reading,