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The importance of providing youth with mental health support | Opinion

Do you feel safe discussing your mental health openly with your co-workers? When your supervisors or managers ask you questions about your well-being, do you often find it easier or safer to fake a smile or respond with “I’m fine”, even if it’s not the case ? If so, you are not alone.

This feeling is particularly acute in academia. According to the charity Education Support, 60% of higher education staff feel uncomfortable disclosing mental health issues or unmanageable stress to their employer. Yet 76% of employees in higher education experienced behavioural, psychological or physical symptoms as a result of their work, as did 60% of employees in other professions in the UK. The cost of poor mental health per employee in the education sector is between £1,203 and £1,585 per year.

Insufficient attention and funding is given to addressing youth mental health issues

Although a number of work-related factors are involved here,1 whether it’s funding cuts, relatively low salaries, heavy workloads, long working hours, or role ambiguity, a closer look also highlights a factor that emerges much earlier. in life: a lack of dialogue around mental health awareness in childhood. Addressing and treating mental disorders is essential for the daily functioning and general well-being of young people, and it is particularly important since many mental health problems appear during adolescence.2 During this time, the brain experiences many structural changes during the maturation process, leading to an increased likelihood of disorders such as schizophrenia, anxiety, depressive disorders, and eating disorders. Up to one in eight children between the ages of 5 and 19 suffer from a mental disorder,3 and those who are LGBTQIA+ and part of minority ethnic groups are most affected by mental health issues, with racism and discrimination leading to poorer mental health and increased suicidal ideation.4 And yet, insufficient attention and funding is given to addressing youth mental health issues.

The stigma of it hung in the air like a bad smell that no one wanted to recognize

For me, certainly, the pressure I felt at school to achieve academic excellence left me with a perpetual sense of anxiety and an unbearable fear of failure that I decided to deal with on my own. The teachers recognized that I needed help but did not have the resources or the language to support me. Neither did my family or my friends. No one knew how to talk about mental health. And, even if they did, it still seemed taboo – the stigma of it hung in the air like a bad smell that no one wanted to acknowledge. I fooled myself into thinking I had no one to turn to. Among school-aged boys, reluctance to seek mental health help may lead to higher suicide rates.5 In my case, my struggles led me down a path of self-harm.

Throughout my college career, conversations about mental health have been a low whisper in university hallways, with student well-being serving as a bandage for what is a gaping wound. After a while, I realized that my work had to go back to the beginning. Young people deserve a safe environment to talk about their mental health, and they need to be given the language to express it. They are more likely to seek help if they know about mental health awareness and have trusting relationships with those who provide it. That’s why I started Creative Tuition Collective, a non-profit organization that offers mental health support in addition to tuition.

At Creative Tuition Collective, two professionally trained therapists conduct group personal development sessions with students, where they are encouraged to discuss their mental health in a safe environment while being equipped with important coping mechanisms they can take with them later in life. I want to give students what I wish I had grown up. By creating awareness earlier, we hope to see changes in young people’s attitudes that will make them more likely to seek help for mental health issues, changes that could create better working environments in the workplace. university where workers feel safe to talk about their mental health without fear of being judged.