Study shows young people verbally abused when showing emotional distress

Study shows young people verbally abused when showing emotional distress

In the first, large scale survey of young people’s views about mental health, the charity YoungMinds found that over half of 9-25 year olds were called names such as weirdo, schizo, or freak when they are going through tough times.

The poll conducted by Childwise with 2629 young people also worryingly shows this negative attitude towards people with mental health problems gets significantly worse with age.  40% of 17-25 year olds associate the word ‘schizo’ with mental health problems compared to 14% of 9-16 year olds and 33% of 17-25 year olds associate the words ‘aggressive/violent’ with mental health problems compared to 19% of 9-16 year olds.

Lucie Russell, YoungMinds Director of Campaigns and author of the survey briefing ‘See Beyond our Labels’ said:

“At YoungMinds we are constantly told by young people, by parents and by the teachers, youth workers and child psychiatrists that stigma has a tremendous impact on children and young people.  They feel unable to talk about their distress, which leads to them isolating themselves, being called names and bullied.  Consequently they become more seriously ill and often reach crisis point before receiving support and services.”

Lucie continues: “This research is the first large scale survey of children and young people’s views about mental health and the stigma they face, and the first time we have hard evidence of the extent of our young people’s negative attitudes towards mental health and the suffering it causes.  Given that there are three young people in every classroom with diagnosable mental health problems this research is a wake up call that we have a serious problem on our hands.  Action must be taken now to educate children and young people

Caroline from YoungMinds young peoples panel VIK said: “At school my mental health problems were dismissed and I was made to feel there was nothing wrong with me. This was incredibly invalidating and led me to believe I wasn’t deserving of help.  To this day I feel like a fraud, a hypochondriac.  Friends called me a ‘freak’ because I wasn’t ‘normal’.  They weren’t willing to understand why I acted the way I did.”

Other key findings include:

  • 55% of respondents believe young people have mental health problems because they are born with them.
  • 26% of 9-16 year olds and 67% of 17-25 year olds said it was easier to tell someone if they don’t feel well physically compared with feeling distressed or unwell mentally.

The report recommends:

  • Action on mental health stigma should be a central focus of the Government’s  mental health strategy, public health strategy and the Cabinet Office Behaviour Insight Team
  • A mental health and wellbeing health promotion campaign aimed at children and young people to increase understanding about mental health and how it is good to talk about how they feel.
  • Training for all teachers, school nurses, GPs and youth workers in child and adolescent psychological development, mental health and the negative role that stigma  plays in young people’s developing self esteem.
  • Teaching about good mental health and developing resilience should be taken on by schools as a priority and should be embedded in the curriculum as part of PHSE.

Please click for more about Young Minds and their work.

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