AwareNow: Issue 16: The Mayday Edition

Page 100

“We must focus on education.”

Tanith: Why do you think youth mental health so important, and how can parents and the wider community support young people?

Claire: The cost to the economy for days lost due to stress, anxiety and depression is in the billions. We must provide better support for the next generation. After all, these young people are our future writers, film makers, doctors, nurses, shop keepers, lawyers, accountants and entrepreneurs etc who will drive our economy forward and make key global policy decisions.

We must focus more on education. Waiting until a diagnosis is made is not acting quickly enough and putting a strain on our health services. Waiting times for mental health support vary, with some having to wait months. We know from our research that this ‘waiting’ time can cause young people to turn to more harmful ways of coping. Imagine finally having the courage to ask for help, and then being told to wait it out for 3 months. Too many young people are taking their own lives because they feel they have no other option. Not only that, but don’t we all have a right to know more about how we can best support ourselves, and gain control over our mental health and lead a happy, healthy life?

Tanith: Through your work with I am me, I know you have researched facts and statistics around youth mental health, which of these do you think people would find the most surprising?

Claire: I don’t know if people would find it surprising but maybe more alarming, 75% of diagnosed mental illnesses develop by 18, and 1 in 10 young people aged between 5 & 16 have a mental health illness. The most alarming for me is that 50% of mental illnesses are established by the age of 14. As a mum of two teenage boys I find all of these stats to be really hard hitting. That is just the beginning of a young person’s life. Children start learning about their physical bodies and fitness from a very young age, it should be the same with mental health.