'Young people’s mental health could be impacted for decades to come if we don’t act'
The chief executive of Leeds Mind has raised fears over the long term future for young people's mental health as a new report says they have been at the centre of two crises during the pandemic.
Helen Kemp spoke out after a new report by The Resolution Foundation said young people have suffered the biggest employment hit and sharpest increase in mental health conditions of any age group.
The think tank said there had been "worrying trends" in young people's mental health in the run-up to and during the crisis.
Ms Kemp, chief executive of mental health charity Leeds Mind, said the crisis in children and young people’s mental health started before the pandemic, and has clearly been made worse by the difficult period everyone’s endured.
Ms Kemp said: "Not only did young people suffer disruption to education, stress around exam uncertainties and the biggest hit to employment, but were some of the most affected by social isolation – especially those who might have just moved out of home for the first time starting university and college.
"With that in mind, young people’s mental health could be impacted for decades to come if we don’t act.
"Young people are seeking support through initiatives such as our THRU (Talk, Help, Relate, Understand) and Young Black Minds peer support programmes.
"In our experience, this demographic is becoming better than any previous generation at talking about their mental health honestly and openly, and working to understand what they need to recover and thrive.
"But they need systemic change to be able to fully recover.
"Schools need to be given the resources and tools to support them, and while we certainly need to get young people back working, we also need to improve workplace wellbeing cultures.
The Resolution Foundation report found that those aged 18 to 24 have gone from being the least likely age group to have common mental disorders such as anxiety and depression in 2000, to being the most likely to have them in 2019.
Rukmen Sehmi, senior research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: "Young people are facing a double jobs and mental health crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"These two crises are linked too, with young people who have lost their jobs most at risk of experiencing mental health problems.
"Worryingly, experiencing these mental health problems today can harm young people's employment prospects in the future too.
"It is essential therefore that as we emerge out of the pandemic the Government intensifies its efforts to get young people back working, and provides the right support for anyone suffering with mental health problems."
Ms Kemp said: "Where the Resolution Foundation mentions concerns over future employability, we can tackle this by breaking down the stigma around mental health, and working with employers to both improve workplace wellbeing cultures and promote better understanding of mental health conditions.
"Leeds has a great community of businesses and business leaders that are working to combat this through the Mindful Employer network, a group of organisations large and small that are committed to improving workplace culture with regards to mental health.
"The pandemic has really driven the need to look at mental health holistically – not just crisis support but placing prevention front-and-centre. This is what we need to see with government’s £500m Mental Health Recovery Package; if we work with young people now we will be able to support them into a mentally healthier adulthood.”"
Becky Jones, a manager at Leeds-based charity GIPSIL (Gipton Supported Independent Living), said: "In Leeds we’re seeing a significant increase in demand within the 16- to 25 age group for mental health support."
" Young people are telling us that the social isolation caused by numerous lockdowns has aggravated issues such as anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation.
"GIPSIL are working holistically with partners across the city to try and address the issues of homelessness, unemployment and mental health that are at the forefront of young people’s stories around the impact of Covid.
"Young people are telling us they need accessible financial advice, suitable housing, access to careers advice and jobs as well as timely and sensitive mental health support."