Belfast Telegraph

Almost half of Northern Ireland young people have mental health problems, study reveals

By Stewart Robson and Allan Preston

Almost half of young people in Northern Ireland say they have experienced a mental health problem, a report reveals today.

Shocking research turns the spotlight on the anxieties and pressures facing people as they reach adulthood.

It found two-thirds of young people here regularly feel stressed and a third go as far as saying they often feel hopeless.

The charity behind the report said its findings should "ring alarm bells".

Nick Stace from The Prince's Trust said we risked a generation losing faith in its ability to achieve goals in life.

The report is based on a survey of almost 2,200 16-25-year-olds.

It found:

  • 44% of young people in Northern Ireland say they have experienced a mental health problem.
  • 68% revealed they always or often feel stressed.
  • 60% said they always or often feel anxious.
  • And 33% reported they always or often feel hopeless.

Previous Prince's Trust research showed nearly 40% of young people here didn't feel in control of their own lives.

The report also follows alarming statistics released in February about our high suicide rate.

The Mental Health Foundation and the Royal College of Psychiatrists found more people died from suicide in Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement (4,400) than during the Troubles (3,600), with Northern Ireland also having the UK's highest suicide rate.

SDLP health spokesman Mark H Durkan said he was "shocked but not surprised" at the findings and called for a greater push towards mental health education.

"There's statutory services and some charity groups doing sterling work out there, but they're operating on a shoestring," he said.

"It makes sense that we need to teach our young people resilience instead of struggling to deal with the problem. Small investment at that stage will have a massive impact on young people but it's also a wise and prudent use of our resources."

Today's report highlights factors that could be contributing to the mental health issues.

A quarter of our young people (25%) think they put too much pressure on themselves to achieve success.

Mr Stace, UK chief executive at The Prince's Trust, said: "It should ring alarm bells for us all that young people in Northern Ireland and across the UK are feeling more despondent about their emotional health than ever before.

"One of the most important things we can do to stem this flow is to show young people that it's worth having high aspirations, that opportunities to earn a good living and progress in a career are out there and that they'll be supported along the way."

The report adds that half of young people here (51%) agree that having a job gives - or would give - them a sense of purpose.

Figures from the Office of National Statistics also show that 11% of young people are not in employment, education or training.

A total of 2,194 people aged 16 to 25 took part in an online survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of The Prince's Trust, between November 9 and 26, 2017.

Sinn Féin MLA Orlaithí Flynn said: "This research highlights the immense strain on young people’s mental health from exams, expectations around body image, bullying, inequalities and peer pressures.

“It is absolutely essential that people struggling with their mental health feel able to seek support. Yet 78% of the young people surveyed think there is stigma attached to mental health and 24% would not talk to anyone if they had a mental health problem.

“Young people need to know that it is okay to not be okay.”

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