In the past 25 years, national rates of mental health disorders in young people have risen by 70% , with anxiety and depression seeing the largest spike. Psychiatrists and medics alike are dubbing it the ‘youth mental health crisis’ and so far, unfortunately, there seems to be no end in sight.
Whichever way you look at it, the state of young people’s mental health today is dire to say the least. More young people below the age of 25 are complaining of and being diagnosed with low mood, depression and anxiety than ever before. Reports of children as young as four suffering from anxiety and panic attacks are becoming far more prevalent. Data from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) revealed that a worrying 18% of primary school teachers surveyed have come into contact with a child below the age of seven with a mental health disorder.
However, it seems that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Anxiety and depression aren’t the only disorders wreaking havoc on today’s youth. Hospital admissions for children and young people with eating disorders has doubled, rates of self harm have increased exponentially and hospital admissions for children with psychiatric conditions has more than doubled in the past eight years. On top of this, sadly, the figures only get worse for those youth from low-income and ethnic minority backgrounds.
Girls seem to be the ones who suffer more from mental health issues however, according to the data, one quarter of teenage girls exhibit depressive symptoms and a shocking three quarters of all the anti-depressants prescribed to 13-17 year olds are given to girls. However, many believe that these statistics aren’t an accurate reflection of the state of boy’s mental health as the suicide rate amongst young men is far higher than it is for young women. Statistics from 2016 show that of all the suicides committed in that year, 75% of them were males compared to a relatively low 25% being females.
Teenage pregnancy is at a 50 year low, substance abuse amongst teens is declining gradually and so is smoking and binge drinking. So why is the state of young people’s mental health so poor when generally speaking, young people’s quality of life is the best it’s been in decades?
According to Andrew Mayers, a psychology professor and a patron for Dorset Minds, young people’s mental health is being severely impacted by the expectations and pressures of modern life.
It’s reported that 10% of young people aged between five and sixteen have some form of mental illness and/ or disorder, yet 70% of them won’t receive adequate treatment for their condition. Youth mental health services are bursting at the seams and due to government cuts and a struggling NHS, many are completely unable to cope with the onslaught of referrals and admissions given to them. This, sadly, leads to hundreds of children and young people’s’ emotional and psychological wellbeing being cast aside and ignored by hospitals and schools alike.
Dorset, despite being a relatively affluent county as a whole, still sees many of its youth suffer from mental health disorders and appears to rank above national average in a number of categories.
However, a small victory has been conceded by the small South Western county in the battle against declining national mental health. According to recent data from the Care Quality Commission’s Community Mental Health Survey, patients in Dorset receive the best mental health care in the country.
The findings are based on feedback from patients who underwent mental health treatment or used services provided by Dorset Healthcare between September and November 2017. Dorset ranked highest when it came to patient satisfaction, overall care and how likely patients were to recommend the services.
Sadly however, this is not enough. As it stands, only a mere 6% of health research spending goes towards mental health, despite one in four people having suffered from a mental health issue. This works out to roughly £8 spent per person on mental health research, for every person affected; that’s fourteen times less than what is spent on dementia and 22 times less than the money put towards cancer research.
The numbers speak for themselves; more funding, more training and more resources need to be provided to tackle the youth mental health crisis. The current situation is both worrying and seemingly beyond the control of everyone from parents, to schools, to governments and hospitals, and with mounting demand and simultaneously dwindling resources, the future of youth mental health does not look promising.