The Covid-19 pandemic has contributed towards some of the worst levels of young adult mental health on record, with happiness levels amongst young people at the lowest level they have been in a decade. This isn’t just a side effect of the pandemic. Reducing life chances, worsening employment, and the belief that their generation will be the first in living memory to be worse off than their parents have resulted in worsening mental health in young people, and are symptoms of a society that does not show young people a future worth believing in.

In a study of 16-25 year olds since the onset of the pandemic, 38% said they experience suicidal thoughts during difficult times, and 52% said they were suffering from anxiety. All the while the last decade has seen a sharp decline in investment to young adult mental health services. Government funding for the Early Intervention Grant has been cut by over £500 million since 2013, public health funding has been cut by £600 million between 2015/16 and 2019/20, and waiting times for NHS mental health services have risen to almost six months. Meanwhile, there are over 160,000 fewer young people in employment, and twice as many young people than older people have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. 

We know that young people often suffer alone with poor mental health, feeling unable to talk to others about their experience. This isn’t unique to the younger generation, it is the result of an ingrained societal attitudes that stigmatise mental health, and have turned mental health into a taboo subject. Young people are feeling the full force of higher costs of living, insecure work, and an increasingly competitive and confusing employment market. At the same time, worry about the lack of opportunities, money, and emotional health has led to a mental health epidemic, with young people experiencing unprecedented levels of anxiety and stress.

It goes without saying that when we get sick we take time off, we look after ourselves, and we see a doctor if we need to. We should foster an attitude in the workplace that treats mental health no differently. When we aren’t doing so well, we should be able to lighten the load at work, take some time off, and get therapy if we need to. The first step to improving young people’s mental health is to normalise talking about it so that young people feel able to share with others. This will require renovating workplaces to make them safe environments to talk about mental health, and will require giving young people access to real mental health support when they need it. 

At The Youth Group we’re taking a front line role in destigmatising mental health and creating a safe place for young people to open up about their mental health concerns. We’ve created Mindset, a groundbreaking mental health service for young people to empower young people with the tools they need to look after their mental health.