Young Scots mental health worsens year on year


Young people complain of stress, anxiety and hopelessness in a world where they struggle to feel "good enough"

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5th April 2018 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

More than 40% of Scotland’s young people say they have experienced a mental health problem and a quarter regularly feel hopeless.

The new figures from the Prince’s Trust highlight the shocking levels of stress young people experience trying to feel “good enough”.

Over half of young Scots told the charity they regularly feel stressed and their confidence in their emotional wellbeing is at its lowest level in five years.

Young people say they put too much pressure on themselves to achieve success and they worry about their overall future, their finances and “not being good enough in general”.

The Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index is based on a survey of 2,194 people aged 16 to 25 and gauges young people’s wellbeing across a range of areas from working life to family relationships.

The happiness young people in Scotland experience in relation to their emotional health has declined year on year.

Finlay Laverty, senior head of partnerships at Prince’s Trust Scotland, said: “It should ring alarm bells for us all that young people in Scotland are feeling more despondent about their emotional health. This is a generation rapidly losing faith in their ability to achieve their goals in life, who are increasingly wary of and disillusioned with the jobs market.”

When asked to describe how they feel, 53% of young people in Scotland said they regularly feel stressed, 51% said they regularly feel anxious and one in five go as far as to say they feel hopeless on a regular basis.

Struggling with ill-health and mental health challenges, 24 year old Natasha, from Uddingston, felt hopeless. After leaving school at 15 with few qualifications, Natasha was knocked back from a dream career an army nurse. Having been badly affected by a series of family deaths and upheavals, she became depressed.

“I didn’t go out at all – it was the same thing every day. The telly was on but I wasn’t taking anything in as I was so uninterested. I lost belief in myself. Some days, I didn’t get out of bed.”

One of the most important things we can do to change this picture is show young people that it’s worth having high aspirations - Finlay Laverty, The Princes Trust Scotland

Natasha was also suffering from health problems and when she was only 21, she had surgery to have a stoma fitted. She struggled further following her op.

“I thought to myself, ‘Now I have this there’s no way out - no one is going to see me the same’. It really affected my confidence.”

In 2016 Natasha joined The Prince’s Trust Get into Healthcare programme delivered in partnership with NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, but due to ill-health she had to quit. She was on benefits until her health improved and she joined the course for a second time.

“I thought, ‘I’m not going to let this illness rule me’,” she said.

After successfully completing the programme in December 2016, Natasha was offered a full-time job with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde based at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

“It was like a dream come true,” she said. “I still suffer with depression. But this has given me the boost to get my feet moving in the right direction.”

Three fifths of young Scots agree that having a job gives (or would give) them a sense of purpose, and half think that having a job is good for their mental health.

However, the index suggests that today's job market can have a negative impact on the wellbeing as many jobs are insecure.

Laverty added: “One of the most important things we can do to change this picture is show young people that it’s worth having high aspirations, that opportunities to earn a decent living and progress in a career are out there, and that they’ll be supported along the way to live, learn and earn.

“For this to happen, it is vital that government, charities and employers across Scotland invest more in developing young people’s skills and in providing opportunities for them to progress in fulfilling, sustainable careers.”

In response to the report, the trust is developing a partnership with mental health charity Scottish Association for Mental Health. It plans to continue offering a free counselling service to young people accessing programmes at its Glasgow centre to ensure young people have the support they need, when they need it.