On World Mental Health Day 2018 Emma, a PAPYRUS HOPELINEUK adviser, writes about the challenges for young people in a changing world.
Changes are a natural part of life – they can be either positive or negative and they are usually things that we cannot control. For young people especially, these changes seem to occur more and more frequently in the modern world. These changes may be transitions from Primary school to High school, from College to University or from job to job. However, these changes could also take many other forms, for example changing bodies, hormones and appearances. Yet it is important to note that, whilst things change for each individual, things are also changing and developing in the wider world – an external factor that we cannot control.
It can be difficult to cope when things are different to how they were before – things that are unfamiliar can take some getting used to. So, how do young people cope with this? Sometimes, changes can be so overwhelming that people can find it difficult to cope which can, on occasion, lead to thoughts of suicide.
According to the World Health Organisation, before the age of 14, half of all mental illnesses have already begun. Further to this, it has been found that self-harm reported to GPs among teenage girls under the age of 17 in the UK has increased by 68% over the past three years. Shockingly, it has also been found that 75% of young people with a mental health problem are not receiving treatment. Most importantly of all, in the UK, suicide is the biggest killer of young people under the age of 35. So, what is the reason for this?
As a charity, we at PAPYRUS believe that thoughts of suicide can be related to significant events (or changes) with a feeling of loss – these significant events are unique to each individual and everyone responds to these things in different ways. In today’s society, the world around us is constantly changing and impacts upon people differently. In the past decade, technology is perhaps the biggest transformation that has occurred. Although there are many positive aspects of technology and the internet, there are also many negative things that are important to take into consideration.
The dominance of social media has transformed the way in which people live – it could be argued that this development has been a catalyst for how prominent mental health problems are in the modern world and may, to a degree, be a contributing factor to why suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the UK. The broadcaster, Mary Nightingale, has discussed the ways in which social media has created a new ‘perfect’ world – but this world is an untrue representation of a person’s life. Therefore, it is so important for people to see beyond this and behind the pictures that are ‘highlights’ of a very false life. People try and compare their reality to the fake world represented online – this can make people feel as though their life is insignificant or even as though it is wrong, which can often lead to thoughts of suicide.
So, what can be done about this? Resilience is key in helping to manage a person’s mental illness or recover from it entirely. Learning to build resilience from a young age is imperative for improving mental health in the modern world, however it is also something that can be taught in later life. There are many ways in which a person can do this, for example through self-help resources which can be found online or by being taught life-lessons as part of their learning and/or school curriculum.
One way for young people to build resilience and create a safe space could be creating a ‘HOPEBOOK’. This HOPEBOOK can be a true representation of a person’s life – their goals, their dreams, their memories. Let’s help each other to create a real world in which to live – let’s make it real and raw and not hide behind filters. It’s true that we can help young people to adapt to the world and its changes to some degree. But we can also help them to define their own world, rather than defining themselves by others or what they see on social media. Changes like these can make a big difference for young people and their mental health.