The Kids Aren’t Alright – Mental Illness and Young People

‘One of the things that baffles me (and there are quite a few) is how there can be so much lingering stigma with regards to mental illness….in my opinion, living with manic depression takes a tremendous amount of balls’ – Carrie Fisher, ‘Wishful Drinking’ 

It’s a curious contradiction that a society that attempts to shed light on mental illnesses still remains one that shies away from it. Despite the media campaigns urging those suffering to speak out, many are still suffering in silence. That’s because limiting and ultimately harmful views of mental illnesses are still prevalent throughout societies.

There’s been several times where the weight of the stigma really struck me. Moments where somebody described suicide as ‘selfish’, said they’d urge somebody with depression to ‘snap out of it’ or described somebody suffering with problems as ‘mental’. From my experience, the people who make such comments are the ones who have no experience with mental illnesses. They aren’t suffering from one themselves, or they haven’t been the source of support for a sufferer.

Mental illness is also used as a weapon to further serve agendas. A conservative commentator were pick to point to studies showing that liberal-minded people are more likely to be mentally ill, commenting ‘we’ve long subscribed to the notion that leftists are freakin’ bananas…but now it looks like there’s empirical evidence’ (1). Using mental illnesses to attack political opponents not only furthers the stigma, but demeans the opinions and values of the mentally ill, as if they’re completely incapable of holding any.

 The statistics are harrowing – 20% of adolescents experience a mental illness problem in any given year and 10% of children have a diagnosable mental problem (2). Much is made of the prevalence of mental illnesses in the younger generations there is often accusations of unfair bias against the youth in this circumstance. However, multiple studies do show a rise in anxiety and depression since the 1960s. Although teenage suicides have decreased since the 1990s, this can be credited to the introduction of modern anti-depressants in that period (3).

Why are young people more likely to be subject to mental illness?

 One therapist suggested that the modern generation are over-parented, meaning they can’t handle the responsibilities of adulthood. He points to cases of thirty year old patients who are barely able to comprehend the thought of having a job (4).

Psychologist Peter Gray placed the blame on public schools, saying the emphasis on high grades is ‘almost designed to produce anxiety and depression’ (5).

A lot of blame has also gone towards social media, as it’s often blamed for stimulating feelings of envy and inadequacy.
m-h 2

Whatever the cause may be, there is a crisis facing us, and it’s one we should direct our attention to.

Though there is a great deal of work that needs to be done, there are often bumps in the road that hinder progress. Government cuts to mental health services have been huge – the spending on children’s mental health services falling by £50 million. 84% of NHS counselors, therapist and psychoanalysts warned this would mean children would find it more difficult to access help (6).

Mental illnesses also shouldn’t be thrown about as a buzz-word. Feelings of passing sadness shouldn’t be referred to as ‘feeling depressed’. Moments of natural nervousness doesn’t mean you’re suffering with anxiety. Liking to have a clean desk isn’t justifiable for you to exclaim “Oh my god, I’m so OCD!”

It’s a multi-layered issue, and this article reflects that. I’ve jumped around from topic to topic, because there’s so much I’d want to say about it. But nothing as important as what I want to finish this article with.

People with mental illnesses don’t need your judgement. They don’t need your condescending attitudes, your half-hearted sympathies or your belittling comments. What they do need is your support, your understanding and above all else, help.



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