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Young People’s Views of Mental Health

Where do young people go for information about mental health?

“There is very little reassurance when it comes to online material.”

“The internet is a very scary place. It over-exaggerates and the scaremongering is extreme. It’s a great place to get resources, but should never be used to figure out what you’re feeling. I was feeling sad at the start of the year. I googled how I was feeling, and by the end I was convinced I had paranoid schizophrenia. It was terrifying.”

Young people’s knowledge and views of local information and services:

“I know of these services, however I don’t know where to find them.”

“I don’t feel like many people know about where to find info about mental health.”

“Young people have to seek out information rather than have it available to them before a crisis happens.”

“There needs to be more information provided regularly.”

“Have a list of what services are available in every area so young people know where they can go for help or information.”

“Make it clear where help services can be found.”

“Councils should push for local services to be better displayed.”

Is public mental health information young person-friendly?

“I don’t respond to things like cartoons. I respond to real life scenarios.”

“Don’t make them cheesy. Make them realistic.”

“It’s more powerful to hear personal experiences rather than more general descriptions of mental health.”

“In leaflets they should make the language simpler to understand for young people.”

“Make leaflets more directed to children.”

“Less resources full of jargon.”

Who do young people feel comfortable talking to about their mental health?

“In my experiences mental health problems are only shared, reluctantly, after a major issue has arisen. There are less conversations about general mental wellbeing.”

“My parents are very supportive, but we have a lot going on in our family right now and I don’t want to bother them with even more things to stress them about.”

“It is easier to speak to someone who is not in your family or friends, such as a medical professional.”

“I don’t feel workplaces are equipped to deal with mental health as they just dismiss it in my experience.”

“In my experience teachers/lecturers are not sufficiently trained to help me cope with my mental health.”

“With mental health, teachers understand they don’t know enough, so they don’t feel they can support you, so they won’t talk about it.”

“Guidance teachers are good.”

“There are always some teachers you feel you can talk to.”

Who do young people feel comfortable talking to about someone else’s mental health?

“It always seems easier to seek help for someone else.”

“I think when you aren’t talking about your own mental health you aren’t as bothered because you are speaking about someone else, and so anything the person [you are confiding in] says is not directed at you.”

“In the past I tried to get help for a family member. Was told only the person who needed help could ask for it.”

“I was once really worried about a friend of mine, and was desperate for advice because I was scared she was feeling suicidal and didn’t know what to do. It was Sunday, so I couldn’t phone the GP, and I looked online for a helpline to get some advice. The only helpline that was open was the Samaritans, but the woman I spoke to was useless – I just wanted advice on what to do to help my friend, and she kept asking me how I was feeling. It just made the whole situation more stressful.”

Barriers to talking about mental health:

“It’s my pet peeve when people say mental health when they mean mental health problems. Everyone has mental health problems. Everyone has mental health. Like, when I was on work experience someone said their mum had mental health, and everyone was really sympathetic, but I got frustrated because everyone has mental health.”

“There’s a lot of negative terminology when we talk about mental health – conditions, issues, problems.”

“Mental health problems are our generation’s epidemic.”

“People making assumptions about you as a person for having mental health difficulties and believing common misconceptions about mental health.”

“Despite progress there is still stigma surrounding mental health issues.”

“I have a fear of people viewing it as a sole component of my person.”

“You get treated differently depending on gender; with guys, mental health problems are associated with ‘weakness’ or not being ‘as much of a man’. If you’re a girl, you are told, ‘You feel like that because of hormones’, or get asked if you’re on your period.”

“I wouldn’t tell any of my friends because they’ll laugh.”

“Mental health isn’t taken seriously in society so that would stop me speaking.”

“People would just normally say it’s all in your head and you’re only doing it for attention.”

“There’s specific stigma against children and young people, it’s seen as attention-seeking, or fear of the doctor thinking your are just attention-seeking. The doctor might just say it’s just part of growing up.”

“In my own experience, therapists do not take young people as seriously as they do with adults when it comes to mental health.”

“Getting told the phrase, ‘You’re too young to be depressed, you don’t know anything about life yet.’”

“You never know what a person could do with that information; they could tell your whole year [at school] or something.”

“I would be scared that what I consider as confidential, they might not be as careful with me.”

“I would make sure the person is okay for me to talk about it with other people.”

“If concerned, I would speak out. Otherwise I’d respect privacy.”

“I would only talk to someone about another person’s mental health if they feel comfortable with me sharing it.”

“Sometimes other people are not so educated on the illness so it can be scary to share it with someone who could potentially be ignorant about it.”

“You don’t know how people would react. Some people say ‘I’m fine with people with mental health problems’, but what they mean is, ‘I’m fine until it shows’, or if they have a ‘mainstream’ problem like depression or anxiety, but they can’t cope with non-mainstream problems like psychosis.”

“I have had mental health issues and I haven’t spoken to people purely because I felt like I was abnormal or because it was ‘just me’ being anxious or feeling ‘blue’. I only started speaking to someone about it when a friend mentioned that I ‘wasn’t myself.’”

“I think the thing about this topic is the fear of there actually being nothing wrong. I wouldn’t want to worry anyone or waste their time just because I feel down. I would rather try and come to terms with it myself and express myself in other ways than putting the weight on someone’s shoulders. Everyone gets sad at some point so I’d rather wait and see if the time makes it better.”

“It’s not something that is commonly talked about; I don’t really know about it how how to help anyone suffering from mental health problems.”

“You don’t know what to say or how to help someone with mental health problems; young people have never been educated on how to react or help people. I think they’d feel more confident to help someone if they’d had that.”

“Resources to support friends aren’t widely available but would be helpful.”

“I’d like to see more advice on how to cope when someone you know is going through it.”

“I have experienced a friend suffering with mental health issues and I feel as if we need to talk about it more openly as a group. Even if people aren’t suffering themselves with these problems we need to be well enough informed to be able to help those who are struggling, without fear of making a situation worse.”

“There should be an awareness-raising campaign around how to support someone else with mental health problems. People are isolated because their friends/family don’t know what to say or do.”

“In case it got taken further an went on my medical certificate, preventing me from future and potential jobs.”

“I would not like to have to face up to the illness and have to fix it because I would be scared.”

Do young people know where to go for advice and support for a mental health problem?

“Lots of people think of mental health as a vague thing, they don’t look at the specific detail because they don’t think about what it means to them, so it takes them longer to come to terms or process it if they do need to think about it. They don’t already have a ‘go-to’ response, which can given them very confused ideas or a limited understanding of how they’re feeling. It’s such a complicated concept.”

“[Mental health] is hard to explain because it’s vague. Lots of people don’t think about what it means to them.”

“Young people need to be made aware of what they can do to help themselves or get help when they’re depressed or anxious.”

“Make it clear where help services can be found – e.g. GP, helplines etc.”

“It would be good if all local authorities had organisations like Crew 2000, with a drop-in centre for health, particularly mental health. They should be in city centres and town centres, with big bright window displays that change regularly to have different themes and information. They need to be visible, but not obvious why young people are going in if they’re seen.”

“In Dundee, they have The Corner, which is based next to the main youth centre, so lots of young people will see it even if they’re not using it.”

Supporting young people to talk about mental health:

“I suffer from intermittent anxiety attacks. Generally they occur more often during times of high stress. I withdrew from University after failing to pass exams. I was under a great deal of financial and personal strain at this time and the anxiety attacks became more prominent. Even after I found a regular jobs the attacks continued, generally in the morning after waking up, confining me to my bed as I felt it was unsafe to even leave. Soon it began to impact on my professional life. I was often late because of them or even missed an entire shift when the attacks were more severe. I explained my condition to my employer and although at first they were tolerant they became more and more unconvinced as time went on. I knew after a while that they had stopped believing me. Eventually I was let go from work and made to feel like an unreliable employee by my line manager. It was an incredibly difficult time and losing this work and financial security impacted on my health even further.”