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Mental Health

What Psychologists Say About the Youth Mental Health Crisis

— April 4, 2024

The mental health of young people took a turn for the worse after the pandemic.

In recent years, the general condition of mental health among young individuals has alarmingly shifted. There is a significant rise in mental health issues within late teens and young adults. This concerning trend, highlighted in a study by the Resolution Foundation, reveals that 34% of young adults aged 18-24 in the UK are experiencing symptoms indicative of common mental disorders, a figure that notably surpasses that of any other age group. This rise in youth metal health issues is especially striking considering that two decades ago, this same age group exhibited the lowest incidence of such disorders.

The increasing prevalence of youth mental health problems among young people prompts a deep dive into the causative factors. According to insights from psychologists specializing in youth wellbeing, today’s youth are working through an era marked by unparalleled pressures. These pressures span across academic, professional, and social world, often manifesting as academic stress, performance anxiety, and a profound fear of failure.

Contemporary societal challenges, including the escalating cost of living crisis and the lingering effects of the pandemic—characterized by isolation and the loss of critical life experiences—have further intensified these pressures. Research conducted by King’s College London in collaboration with the non-profit Orygen Institute highlights the heightened difficulties faced by today’s youth in securing employment and managing financial burdens compared to previous generations.

The advent of globalization and technological advancements has drastically altered the employment niche, polarizing job opportunities into high and low-skilled categories. This shift has placed a premium on specialized skills and higher education, making educational and career achievements, or the lack thereof, more visible than ever before. Social media platforms, in particular, have exacerbated this visibility, often amplifying the pressure to portray an idealized image of success.

What Psychologists Say About the Youth Mental Health Crisis
Photo by Khoa Võ from Pexels

The comparative analysis facilitated by social media can evoke negative emotions among young individuals, especially when juxtaposed against peers who are seemingly advancing in their careers or seizing new opportunities. The survey by King’s College London and Orygen Institute further identifies social media as a critical factor in the decline of young people’s mental health, promoting unrealistic expectations of beauty, success, and happiness.

The pandemic has notably worsened these issues, magnifying social isolation and uncertainty. The imposition of restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19 significantly reduced social interactions, adversely affecting the mental health of children and teenagers, particularly those already vulnerable due to socioeconomic, neurodiverse, or disability-related factors.

In these challenges, there’s a silver lining in the form of heightened mental health awareness, which has empowered young individuals to seek support and openly discuss their struggles. This increased visibility has played a crucial role in destigmatizing youth mental health issues. However, it also introduces new challenges by placing the onus of mental wellbeing on the individual, potentially leading to feelings of inadequacy and self-blame among those dealing with difficult circumstances.

This complex web of factors contributing to the mental health crisis among young people highlights the absence of a one-size-fits-all solution. Nonetheless, encouraging active engagement in various life aspects, dealing with challenges, and celebrating minor achievements could pave the way toward resilience and improved mental health.

The situation highlights a critical need for collective efforts in addressing the multifaceted challenges impacting young people’s mental health. While the journey towards creating a supportive and understanding environment is ongoing, recognizing these pressures and taking steps to mitigate their impact is imperative in walking the path to better mental health outcomes for the youth of today.


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