Belfast Telegraph

Happiness of our young people now at its lowest ebb, says shock survey

By Cate McCurry

Young people's happiness in Northern Ireland is at the lowest ever level, a survey has revealed.

A report carried out by a children's charity found that almost half of young people in Northern Ireland feel more anxious today than they did 12 months ago.

According to the Prince's Trust Macquarie Youth Index, one in four young people here feel "trapped" and out of control of their lives.

Concerns about job prospects, self-confidence and recent political events have made Northern Ireland's youth feel anxious about their future. The Youth Index, released today, is a national survey that gauges young people's wellbeing across a range of areas, from family life to physical health.

The latest report demonstrates that young people's wellbeing is at its lowest level since the index was first commissioned.

It paints a bleak picture for Northern Ireland's young people, as almost half of those surveyed feel that a lack of self-confidence holds them back.

Lisa-Jayne Weir, a young mother-of-two suffered from a lack of self-confidence.

The 21-year-old from Northern Ireland, was struggling to look after herself while she was raising her two children.

The young mum felt "trapped" by her circumstances and became "increasingly timid" and would spend most of her time in her flat.

"I wanted to be good at something and make a better life for my children, but I felt worthless and didn't think I would ever amount to anything," she said.

In an attempt to help build her confidence and motivation, Lisa-Jayne joined the programme Fairbridge.

She had since completed qualifications in English and Maths and has started an Access to University course in Psychology and Sociology.

Lisa-Jayne said she is very proud of how far she has come and is much more optimistic about her future.

She added: "Fairbridge made me feel safe and because of that, I was able to push myself, try new things and meet new people.

"The people at Fairbridge believed in me and because of that I got my confidence back.

"Now I am loving life and feel a lot more hopeful for what I can achieve in the future."

While Lisa-Jayne has made great strides to improve her situation, many young people have not been so fortunate.

Mark Dougan, Northern Ireland Director of The Prince's Trust said: "This report paints a deeply concerning picture of a generation who feel their ability to shape their own future is slipping away from them.

"It's shocking how many feel so desperate about their situation and vital that we empower them with the confidence and coping skills they need to succeed in life."

In the past year, the Prince's Trust has supported over 6,000 disadvantaged young people in Northern Ireland to develop confidence and skills. The survey also revealed that a fifth (18%) of young people said they don't have the ability to change their circumstances if they want to.

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