Mental Health for Young People in 2017: What Can We Do?
2017 is a year of… well, discourse. I feel it rolling down the hills into our cities and towns, it’s hard to watch our society crumble. From studying Counselling, to being active within the realms of mental health ever since- I felt a need to reflect on mental health from my years of school, up to where we are today. I’m sharing my thoughts, because I feel the need for it to be shared. (Please see my disclaimer in my about section too lovely folk!).
After reading the Action Plan on Mental Health by the World Health Organisation (which was published in 2013 as a plan up until 2020, they stated “Health systems have not yet adequately responded to the burden of mental disorders; as a consequence, the gap between the need for treatment and its provision is large all over the world.”
I feel this statement is still ever-present in our society for 2017. The repeated articles from every aspect of the UK revolving around, for example, social media and the links to mental illnesses; is a vast part of our community in westernised countries. With mental health being an integral part of our health and wellbeing, why do we face statistics such as this? Can we move forward from these horrifying numbers, one example- that the biggest killer in young people is suicide in the UK? In regards to other countries, that between 76% and 85% of people with severe mental disorders receive no treatment for their disorder in low-income and middle-income countries; with high-income parts of the world being between 35% and 50%? 4 hours ago today, The Guardian posted a headline ‘NHS mental health services turn away 150 vulnerable children a day’. We find ourselves asking… Is this truly happening?
In our westernised world, we are surrounded and subconsciously engulfed with advertisements and media. I remember at school when I was 15, not having a Facebook (just think of it!). I had a Bebo and MSN messenger to talk to my friends when I wasn’t at school. I used to spend hours chatting to my friends with so many emoticons (which we now refer to as emojis) and wondering why suchandsuch didn’t give me one of their 3 ‘loves’ on bebo that day. What millennial doesn’t have multiple social platforms now? Can we as a society, take a step back?
I re-read a book called DO/PURPOSE Why brands with a purpose do better and matter more by David Hieatt for a lot of inspiration regarding my small business. It has a great quote which says,
“Treat distractions as the enemy…The internet is brilliant but it is one very efficient way of using your time. It’s a super addictive distraction device that will stop us from getting stuff done if we allow it to. Just click the off button.”
Why do I get the feeling that, although this quote is so accurate and representative of how we feel, that it is so hard to actively do?
We are living and breathing a crisis that we all relate to in some form; whether that’s a family member suffering with a mental health issue, a young sibling showing signs of social anxiety, or a loved one being triggered by online content.
So what can we do? Is there a beacon of hope in the midst of it all?
Here are some gentle tips to support yourself, and to anyone you feel will benefit.
- The word ‘mental’ is surrounded with stigma, which is often seen as something almost medieval and clinical. Try to using different words such as ‘wellbeing’ with young people. If you feel it’s hard to talk to someone about yourself- language and how we use it is super influential! Gently let it become part of the conversation, do not be afraid to let it out.
- If you are struggling yourself, please do talk to someone. You may not like asking for help, and not wanting to feel like a burden on others- but people who care about you want to help you. I feel if I’m needing help (sometimes, I really don’t want to admit it) I say things like “I’m having a bit of a hard time, would it be ok if I talk to you?” or “I feel I’m struggling right now. Can we chat later?” Pick a time or place you’re comfortable with. I remember having a really bad day and ringing my mum just to tell her I was struggling. Just telling her was a relief. It doesn’t have to be a full conversation if you don’t feel up to it. Reaching out is hard, but undeniably worth every second.
- Recognise little signs. We all have different triggers, or varying parts of our wellbeing that you can notice when something isn’t right. If it’s for yourself, keep a little note of when you’re feeling low or if your behaviour around certain times in the day/week/hour etc changes. Seeing your thoughts written down or keeping track of what has happened can make you realise what’s going on. When I’m stressed and feeling low, I tend to speak my thoughts out loud to just let them go. If it’s swirling around in my head, it feels a bit messy. Find something that works for you that is safe. If it’s someone you are concerned about- gentle ask them if writing down would help them feel more at ease.
- Most of the time when we are in a crisis, or if you’re concerned about someone who you feel is having a hard time- helplines are always there. But this isn’t necessarily the help we feel we can reach during a time of need. I for one, when I suffered
with anxiety- would not call a helpline at all. I felt the anxiety bubbling away under my skin in the heat of ringing a number. Allow yourself to have a hard time, and know that it will pass. It will pass. We forget sadness is one of our basic emotions, that we are so complex in our humanness that we completely disregard this. Don’t you know how strong you are? That you are breathing. Know you are loved, and you will carry on. Keep on going. If it’s a loved one having a hard time and are not wanting to reach out- just let them know you are there. When I can’t shake my sadness, just knowing I have support there is a cushion for the blows. Life is a complex thing, and y’know what- some days are just too much. Again, let them have a hard time, let them know you are there if they need you. No conversation starters like ‘you’ll snap out of it’, ‘you’ll get over it’ or ‘stop crying’ – because that isn’t supportive. Let them feel, let yourself feel. It’s ok.
Looking into 2018, we’ve seen the rise and fall of certain aspects of our world. I hope we can continue to seek love, truth and fairness. As corny as it gets, we are the makers of our Universe. What we think, or what we act on- is eventually what will become. Think of what you love, who you love- and what a wonderful gift we are breathing and living on the same planet at the same time. It’s pure flippin’ magic.
Thank you lovely souls for supporting this post, as it has been 8 months since I wrote something. I just haven’t had the confidence. All my love y’all.