The mental health charity for spoke to more than 7,000 young people aged 25 and under who have previously reached out for mental health support in the UK.
It revealed two-thirds (67%) had been unable to find support when they first needed it, with three in four forced to manage the situation alone. Yet just 17% of respondents felt confident in their ability to manage their mental health by themselves.
The survey exposed gaps in early support and highlighted school pressure, body image and traumatic childhood experiences as common factors that can lead to poor mental health.
The charity is urging the government to make early intervention a priority.
YoungMinds surveyed young people about they factors they believed had a significant impact on their mental health. The most common ones included pressure to do well at school (77% of respondents agreed), worrying about how they looked (69%) and family problems (62%).
Almost half of respondents (46%) cited traumatic experiences as a significant factor. Meanwhile a quarter of respondents (27%) suggested spending too much time on social media, while a similar proportion (24%) cited worries about what was in the news.
When asked where they had turned to for help when waiting for mental health support, young people most commonly said friends, parents, school counsellors or other support staff at school, going online and teachers.
Youth clubs and youth groups were also rated highly as places to find support – almost half (45%) of those who’d looked for support through youth clubs found them helpful and only one fifth (21%) found them unhelpful. But only a relatively low number of young people (13%) had been able to get help from these groups in their area.
Emma Thomas, the charity’s chief executive, said: “These results show how hard it can be for young people to get help when they first start to struggle – and we know that the impact of leaving it too late can be devastating.
“We’re seeing welcome investment in NHS mental health services, and some positive initiatives in schools, but, with rising demand, it won’t be enough to meet the need.”
She said it’s “vital” that the right help is available to young people when they first need it. “It’s far better to make sure young people can get help early, rather than add to the numbers needing specialist support,” she continued.
The charity is launching a petition today, alongside a manifesto with specific policy proposals.
Advice for managing mental health
It’s clear action is needed to address the gaps in support for young people. But until that happens, Tom Madders, campaigns director YoungMinds, has shared some helpful advice for managing mental health.
Seek support from others
If you’re feeling low, try not to spend too much time alone. You may feel like you don’t want to burden other people with your problems, but the people who care about you will want to help. Talk to someone you trust, like a friend, family member, or even a helpline – it can be hard, but you’ll probably feel better for doing it.
Take time out
Life can be really busy, whether you’re at school, college or work. Sometimes the pressures we face in our day-to-day lives can be overwhelming, which is why taking time out to relax is vital to stop any existing mental health issues from getting worse.
Work on your self-esteem
Many of us experience low self-esteem at some point in our lives, but tackling it early can prevent depression or anxiety from developing or getting worse. Try to challenge your negative thoughts and focus on the positives.
Surround yourself with the right people
Spend more time with the people who make you feel good about yourself, and less time with those who make you doubt yourself or feel less confident.
Stay on top of your priorities
If you’re stressed about something specific, like a looming deadline or exams, you may find it helpful to set manageable goals for yourself and find a routine that works for you to keep the stress at bay.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: email@example.com
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0300 5000 927 (open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on www.rethink.org.