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Job woes ‘sparking rise in mental health issues among Northern Ireland youth’

Young people in Northern Ireland are suffering from increased mental health problems, including panic attacks, self-harm and depression as unemployment rises.

A report for the Prince’s Trust has found that almost half of unemployed people between the ages of 16-25 here had experienced mental health issues triggered by joblesseness.

More than a fifth of young people in Northern Ireland admitted to self-harming, one in three suffered from insomnia and a fifth of those interviewed said they had panic attacks.

The Macquarie Youth Index, which interviewed 2,170 people across the UK, found that 15% of youths here feel depressed ‘all’ or ‘most’ of the time, while 63% of those working said their job was an important part of their identity.

Claire Conway from Omagh suffered from depression when she became unemployed in 2002 at the age of 22.

“I was in the depths of despair and depression. It’s very isolating not to have work. You have no reason to get up in the morning and you feel like you have no purpose in life,” she said.

Claire eventually sought help and was prescribed anti-depressants. She went on to open her own dog grooming business in 2007 and was named this year’s Prince's Trust Young Ambassador of the Year. But she said it was a long and difficult journey.

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“You block yourself off from friends, especially the people who are working,” she said.

“It is very desperate. I can see it looking back now but when you are in that position it is very difficult to see any hope, but you just have to push yourself to get out there.”

This was the third annual report to be published by the Prince’s Trust and it recorded the most significant decline in young people’s emotional health.

Ian Jeffers, director of the trust in Northern Ireland, said: “Unemployment presents a very real and frightening mental health problem for young people in Northern Ireland — and the longer they are out of work, the greater the risk.”

Julie White, global head of the Macquarie Group Foundation, said that although the statistics were worrying, help was available to young people who find themselves without a job.

“The index is a meaningful way to track and measure young people’s issues. The research shows how Prince’s Trust schemes which help young people into work can directly address unemployed people’s emotional health,” she said.

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