A recent survey of over 2,000 16 to 24 year-olds has shown the alarming impact of mental health stigma on young people.

More than 1 in 4 people with first-hand experience of a mental health problem said stigma or fear of judgement prevented them from attending school or college and nearly a fifth said they dropped out of education.

A huge impact on confidence and self-esteem was reported, and half said it stopped them socialising and seeing friends.

The research also found that young people with experience of a mental health problem are most likely to face stigma in school or college. Statistics show that the majority of young people (73%) want to talk about the topic of mental health, even if they do not have a diagnosis, but say they can’t find the right words. Respondents identified several barriers which prevent them from speaking openly about the topic, including the pressure to live a ‘perfect life’, fear of judgement from friends and concerns it will affect their prospects at school, college, university or work.

Mental Health movement Time to Change says that these results show that mental health stigma continues to negatively impact every aspect of young people’s lives – in education settings and beyond into their social and work life. At such a crucial point in life, the damaging consequences might mean young people are entering adulthood with a lack of self-esteem, education and protective factors such as friends and support structure.

“Since Time to Change began we’ve seen a positive shift in the way mental health problems are viewed,” said Jo Loughran, Director of Time to Change, run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. “But these figures show that too many young people still face stigma and judgement from their peers, resulting in devastating consequences for their education and social lives.”

While the movement has seen a positive shift in the way mental health problems are viewed in England, it’s apparent there’s still work to be done. These concerning statistics highlight the need for young people to feel more able to be open about mental health and supportive of their friends who might be struggling – Time to Change’s ‘In Your Corner’ campaign encourages just that.

Launching next month, Time to Change resources will be available to all secondary schools and colleges across England. The free ‘In Your Corner’ themed pack has been designed to help teachers plan sessions which prompt important discussions in the classroom and demonstrate ways students can show they’re in their mate’s corner.

Encouragingly, the young people surveyed also highlighted the most helpful ways teachers, parents and peers could support them. These included making time to talk or spending time with them, listening to them without judging and checking in to ask how they are.

These findings align with the four suggested ‘In Your Corner’ sessions: the power of listening, being in your friend’s corner, asking twice if someone’s acting differently and using your voice to break down stigma. The final session will consist of an engaging step-by-step guide for students to help them create their own four bar poem or rap about supporting a friend.

“We must act now to ensure students get the best out of their childhood and limited time in education,” continued Jo. “We know that starting and managing discussions about mental health can seem daunting. That’s why we’ve developed these simple tips and resources. We’re offering young people the tools they need to support their friends throughout secondary school, college, and into their adult lives. 

“I’d urge families, secondary schools, colleges and students to visit the Time to Change website to find out more. Together we can help kick start discussions, helping this generation become more open to mental health than any before.”

Secondary schools and colleges can register for the free sessions, films and other materials on the Time to Change website.

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Nisha Kotecha is the Founder of Good News Shared. Having worked and volunteered for charities in the UK for over 10 years, Nisha is on a mission to highlight how amazing charities are.

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