Survey of 5000 teens shows third experience mental health issues

A third of 15 to 18-year-olds assessed by a charity are suffering from mental health and emotional well-being issues.

The research from Action for Children suggests that 33% of the 5,000 teenagers surveyed were experiencing problems on a regular basis.

Common issues were feeling depressed, restless sleep, struggling to focus their minds and the inability to shake negative feelings, even with the help of friends and family.

The charity offered those in need of support a place on its Blues Programme – the first nationwide programme of its kind to deliver early help for depression in secondary schools.

Since the programme started last October, 620 15 to 18-year-olds have taken part, with 420 completing a questionnaire at the end.

According to the charity 70% had showed an improvement by July this year, with a specific decrease in depression.

Pupils also reported increased confidence and self-esteem, improved relationships and better engagement at school.

Rowan, 15, completed the Blues Programme at Whitchurch High School in Cardiff after suffering from low moods and anxiety.

She said: “I couldn’t really focus on things properly. There were scary periods where I was getting very anxious and not doing as well as I usually do at school as my mind was elsewhere.

“I tried to keep how I was feeling to myself and deal with the problems alone, but I didn’t know what to do.

“My friends noticed a difference in me and kept asking me what was wrong.

“It probably seems quite a small thing but learning how to deal with my problems in a new way has made more of a difference than I could have imagined.

“I would be in a terribly dark place now if I hadn’t learnt how to do it.”

Julie Bentley, Action for Children’s chief executive, said: “It’s troubling that so many of our young people are dealing with issues of depression and anxiety – and all too often alone.

“Getting help early can help stop some mental health problems in their tracks, but without quicker investment and targeted support from the Government many young people will continue to struggle.

“If they don’t get the help they need early we will see even higher levels of mental health problems as they reach adulthood.”

An NHS England spokeswoman said: “The NHS in England has made significant progress in improving children’s mental health, including improving access and treatment times – with 70,000 more young people each year set to get help.

“While the long term plan for the health service will set out further plans for the years ahead, improving mental health is everyone’s responsibility so employers, business and other public services need to look at what more they can do to help protect young people’s wellbeing.”

Funded by Royal Mail, the Blues Programme is part of Action for Children’s Build Sound Minds campaign which encourages positive conversation and good mental health.

It is based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy methods and helps young people understand the connection between negative thoughts, actions and feelings over a period of six weeks.

Currently the programme operates in 37 schools based on geographical mental health hotspots identified by Action for Children’s frontline services.

The locations are: Worcestershire, High Wycombe, Cardiff, North Wales, Northern Ireland – Derry and Downpatrick, Scotland – Glasgow and Stornoway, and courses have been completed in High Wycombe.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Action For Children – Blues Programme.