Stigma is stopping young people from talking about mental health, according to new research conducted by The Prince’s Trust.
The adage goes: A problem shared is a problem halved. Yet, almost half of young Brits (47 per cent) have experienced poor mental health. Of those, one in four would not confide in someone if they were having mental health difficulties.
In the interests of dispelling some myths about anxiety and depression, UNILAD spoke to a group of young people supported by The Prince’s Trust about how they took control of their mental health, and this is what they had to say.
Bethany was bullied at school, and subjected to violence so extreme it left her with broken ribs and shattered self-esteem, which triggered an eating disorder.
Bethany told UNILAD how these troubles affected her:
I suffered really bad depression. I just didn’t wanna be here. I think in society people are scared to say what they have got, because other people can be so judgemental.
Someone turned round to me the other day when we were having a discussion about people with mental health and said, ‘They’re not normal’.
Bethany, who is now 20 and an Ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, is determined to change that perception, adding adamantly, ‘But everybody’s normal, in their own way… You are never alone.’
Despite this truism, The Prince’s Trust surveyed 2,215 young people aged 16 to 25 about the stigma surrounding mental health and the results are truly astounding.
While the vast majority of young people (78 per cent) think there is a stigma attached to mental health issues, over half (57 per cent) wouldn’t want anyone to know they were struggling and a third (35 per cent) of young people fear admitting to a mental health problem would make them ‘look weak’.
Ross, a 27-year-old designer, grew up struggling to be open about his sexuality. He spent much of his young adulthood dealing with the impact of those experiences on his mental health.
Explaining why mental health issues should never been seen as a weakness, Ross said:
It’s not always the saddest person in the room who’s going through mental health issues. Figuratively, I put on a mask to hide… because when you say you’ve been through mental health issues, people say you’re crazy or attention-seeking or mentally unhinged.
It’s a lack of understanding. People think you’re not strong. But really, those who have gone through all these things are some of the strongest people you’ll ever meet.
The 47 per cent of young people who are dealing with mental illness are significantly less likely to feel in control of their job prospects, more likely to feel too tired and stressed to cope with day to day life and more likely to feel they have no control over their education, training or finances than their peers.
This is something that 23-year-old Simba, who moved to England from Zimbabwe to reunite with his mother amid mind-altering self-esteem issues, understands all too well.
Simba told UNILAD about his reluctance to burden his family with his problems:
I was unemployed for quite some time. I just need a job to support myself and my family as well. Those factors knocked my confidence and self-esteem.
I didn’t have the confidence to tell my mum my problems. Although she was always there to listen, I felt like it was pointless telling her some of those thoughts I was having, not wanting to burden her.
The new research into mental health was published today in The Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index.
Findings show the well-being of young Brits is at its lowest point since the study was first commissioned in 2009 – and that one in four young people don’t feel in control of their lives.
In light of these shocking statistics, The Prince’s Trust is calling for people to post support and advice to Twitter, explaining the things they do – big or small – that help them to #TakeControl of their lives.
Right now I'm on my way to a Psychotherapy session to help #TakeControl of my life! I won't let my past define my future ??
— Milly Rawley (@MillyTallulah) March 1, 2017
— Skudkid (@DJSkudkid) March 1, 2017
I #TakeControl by talking to my friends and mum, and keeping a Gratitude Journal
— Fab Detari (@fabioladetari) March 1, 2017
The campaign is a mark of solidarity with young people who feel stigmatised by their mental health.
The Prince’s Trust – and its many public ambassadors – hope that it will inspire young people to take control, open up and seek help.
— Richard Hibbard (@richardhibbard2) March 1, 2017
— Tess Daly (@TessDaly) March 1, 2017
— Jonny Benjamin MBE (@MrJonnyBenjamin) March 1, 2017
— DJ Neev (@neevofficial) March 1, 2017
— Richard Mylan (@RichardMylan) February 28, 2017
— PrincesTrustScotland (@PrincesTrustSco) March 1, 2017
Speaking exclusively to UNILAD, The Prince’s Trust Ambassador, therapist and TV presenter Anna Williamson explained how she managed to take control of her own crippling anxiety as a young women.
Anna, who authored Breaking Mad: The Insiders Guide to Conquering Anxiety, said:
Anxiety and depression can be such a scary and lonely thing to experience. It’s important that young people know they’re not alone and that there is help out there.
I still have anxiety, we all do. It’s a good thing when it’s used correctly – to stop us running out in front of a car, for example – but it’s when anxiety starts to limit your life, thoughts and behaviours then it’s important to get help.
While it can be the hardest thing to do, talking really is key to getting through a lot of mental health issues.
— Anna Williamson (@awilliamsonTV) March 1, 2017
UNILAD also met Niki, a 32-year-old make-up artist, business owner and mother.
She overcame domestic violence and depression, and is now determined to encourage others to do the same:
No matter what your circumstances in life – you could’ve gone through bullying, poverty, domestic violence – there’s a point of self-destruction that everyone hits.
You end up creating your own reality. You could look outside and see two clouds and the sun. Are you gonna focus on the clouds or focus on the sun?
You can be the warrior or the victim of your own life. You write your own story. You can have all these problems and obstacles but when you’re the one charging at them with your sword saying, ‘I conquered them’, that’s what it’s about… And it feels amazing.
Despite a plethora of high-profile campaigns stating mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of – or a sign of weakness – it seems we still haven’t cracked the stigma.
Although there are forums online where young people can share their experience and advice, and Instagram has even introduced measures to tackle depression, when society is directly confronted with the harsh truth we still shy away from the shocking fact that so many 16 to 25-year-olds are unhappy.
Liam, now 17, was made homeless at 16-years-old. He was bounced from hostel to hostel and felt ‘lost’ until he found The Prince’s Trust, adding:
I had some family issues, especially with my mother. It felt bad. I didn’t really have deep connections with my family members or people around me. I never had any support in my dreams or ambitions – it felt like I was abandoned and alone.
People didn’t really understand what I was going through. I was in a dark place and thinking about taking my own life at a young age.
The Prince’s Trust – and organisations like it – offer an antidote for people like Liam, Nikki, Ross, and Simba. All five of the young people UNILAD met are inspirational individuals and examples of the restorative power of the human mind.
When we asked Bethany how she overcame her mental health obstacles – challenges that most people could not even fathom – her answer was simple: ‘The Prince’s Trust’, she said. ‘The Prince’s Trust saved me.’