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Third of young people with mental health issues stigmatised

More than half unwilling to seek professional help

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 10 October 2016

Around a third of young people with mental health problems feel stigmatised about their situation and half of those are unwilling to seek professional help from people including GPs, according to results of a survey published today.

For the survey carried out for charity YMCA jointly with the NHS to coincide with World Mental Health Day, researchers spoke to 2,072 people aged 11 to 24 and found that 38% of those with mental health difficulties felt they were stigmatised.

Of those, 56% said this stigma made them less willing to access professional support for their mental health difficulties and 70% were less likely to speak about their problems.

Various forms of stigma are described in the research report as including being left out of activities (54%), verbal abuse (36%), while 85% of survey participants said it damaged confidence and 59% said it negatively impact on school performance.

The report also found that:

  • more than three quarters (77%) of young people knew someone who had experienced difficulties with their mental health
  • anxiety (66%) and depression (51%) were the most common mental health conditions experienced by young people
  • 81% of young people who believed stigma exists said that school was the best place to combat it

The research has also been launched to coincide with the YMCA partnering with the #IAMWHOLE campaign – an NHS anti-stigma campaign fronted by Jordan Stephens of the music band Rizzle Kicks.

The campaign is designed to combat stigma and normalise mental health difficulties among young people and asks people to challenge harmful language used to describe mental health difficulties so that young people can ask for help without fear of negative labels, and ask for support from friends, parents, teachers, GPs or youth worker.

Denise Hatton, chief executive of YMCA England, the national council of YMCAs in England and Wales, said: “YMCA’s research backs up conversations we have had with young people in which they have told us mental health is one of the principle worries affecting their generation today.

“What is alarming from these findings is the widespread stigma young people are now seeing or experiencing from others that is making them less likely to seek professional help.

“YMCA’s mental health services make a huge difference to the lives of young people with mental health difficulties but it is clear more needs to be done to support those who are currently slipping through the net.”

Dr Tim Kendall, national clinical director for mental health for NHS England, said: “A lot of work is being done by the NHS in England to support improvements in children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing, including major investment and service transformation over the next five years.

“Reaching out to young people who aren’t coming forward to access services due to fear of stigma is so important and the #IAMWHOLE campaign is helping to start that conversation with young people today online, through social media and an anti-stigma challenge initiative for schools.”

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