Hello and welcome to my blog! Today I’m going to be talking about a topic that I think is so important, but it may be triggering or difficult to read, so please bear this in mind. I would also like to bring attention to the fact that the focus of the data and content I have discussed is relating to female teenagers who are generally able-bodied. I am in no way trying to erase the mental health issues that men, non-binary people and any one else who may not feel represented fully in this piece, experience. With that said, I also want to say thank you to anyone who completed my survey about mental health, or to those who contributed in other ways. The data seen below that does not have a link to an external source was gathered by me and was taken from the responses of 250 people.
In this essay, I wish to achieve the following;
- To make people feel less alone, and to prove that mental health is a common issue and that somebody else does understand what you’re going through.
- To provide useful and non-patronising tips and resources that you can use to help your mental health and general wellbeing.
- To consider how schools and the (british) government deal with adolescent mental health and how this could be changed or improved.
- And finally, to acknowledge the bias that is seen in this study. my personal bias from my experiences, age, privilege, skin colour, gender, sexuality and education and also that this was aimed solely at teenagers who identify as female. Many of the people who completed this survey are people I know, and people who attend a high-pressure all female school. The survey was also released to a large group of people around the world via a YouTube channel. This means that not every answer is focused to the british educational and health services. I also want to comment on the fact that the results may be skewed due to the risk that only people who have an interest in mental health taking the survey, and if they have an interest it is likely that they have been affected by the issue at some point.
With these things established, I shall now discuss my findings and opinions.
I am going to start with the results of my survey. there is a link to the survey here if you wish to read the questions asked but answers are no longer accepted. I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting the results I got. I was surprised and saddened at the number of respondents that had self harmed and had felt depressed, yet when I read the responses in regards to the factors which cause mental health issues, the culprits were exactly as I’d expected; social media, body image, society’s pressure, school work, peer pressure and the need for success.
When respondents were asked if they had ever felt depressed, 81.1% said they had and 44% explicitly said that they had self-harmed. This means that almost half of the people who took the survey have self harmed at some point in their life, which is devastatingly high. How can we claim to be a society which helps and cares for people if so many of our teenage girls are hurting themselves because they feel so lost and helpless and as though it is the only option? The culture that we have assimilated around us means that only 22% of respondents thought that their friends understood their feelings when discussing mental health and a minuscule 15% thought that their parents understood the pressures young girls face today.
THE MAIN FACTORS WHICH AFFECT ONE’S MENTAL HEALTH
The following topics are ordered by the number of times they were selected in the survey as being a contributing factor to mental health.
- school work
- family issues
- body image
- relationship issues (romantic & platonic)
- social media
- issues with gender & sexuality
- post-school options (example: university)
Unsurprisingly, schools are a hotspot for mental health issues to arise. They are related to at least half of the topics noted above and so it only seems natural to try to help people in this environment.
A statistic that really worried me was that only 8% of respondents believed that their school was good at dealing with mental health issues. Due to this remarkably low number, I spoke to a professional who deals with safeguarding, mental health and general pastoral issues on a day-to-day basis about my findings and the more general subject. throughout our conversation I found that although schools tend to be trying their best, it is a case of changing the entire culture around mental health and to reduce the pressures we face from our modern-day societies and that there isn’t one quick fix. The biggest issue seen in schools is, of course, social media. It was explained to me that social media encourages perfectionist tendencies which is why it has such a negative impact on mental health. However it does seem that we get more resilient with age and that 18 year olds tend to deal with the pressure of social media better than those who are younger. I believe that we need to focus on mental health more in PSHE lessons (which are pretty much taught in every british school) however we need trained professionals or members of staff who want to help, and have the resources to do so. The main advice that i was given by my source was to try to relax (using meditation, music, books and anything else that works for you) and talk to people, preferably your parents but if that’s not available then a trusted adult or a friend.
Another question I asked in my survey was regarding the government and how well they were dealing with mental health. Several answers were specific and included comments such as the incredibly long waiting lists and the ‘camhs’ service in the uk that is failing miserably however the overall consensus was that the government was doing okay (57%). I’m afraid that okay is no longer enough. We should be doing the most we can to help the young people in our country that are struggling and are feeling unsupported by their parents, schools, peers and government. This saddens me to no end and I demand change. This is why I have started a petition to the government to introduce a compulsory set of lessons for those ages 11 and upwards (adapted dependant on age) on how to deal with their mental health and improve their general wellbeing which should be taught in PSHE lessons and across all British schools. If you are a British citizen, please consider signing.
HELP & RESOURCES
Some tips that I’ve picked up along the way to help improve my mental health include…
- Being aware of how I consume social media, celebrities/influencers, beauty standards and most things on instagram. You can mute, unfollow or block if seeing a post doesn’t make you feel good or help you in some way.
- Taking a break and eating something I like. Especially when there is so much homework/studying to be done, have a break and eat food whether it’s an apple or some chocolate. All that matters is that you enjoy every bite.
- Talk, laugh and love. speak to your friends and family. Smile at everyone you see and say hello to people walking down the street, you could be the only person they talk to that day. Be kind and allow yourself to have a good time. Conversations are good for the soul, there is always someone who will listen (if you think there is nobody, then you can find my email on my contact page).
However, I also think that some of the most useful resources for promoting my mental health are apps. Obviously this doesn’t work for everyone, and if the problem is more imposing then you may need to seek professional help but to keep my general wellbeing at an okay level, I use apps such as aloe bud, simple habit, daylio and ZEN. simple habit has some great meditations on there for relaxation, ZEN allows me to focus solely on the shapes within the game and helps me be in the moment, daylio allows me to reflect on my day and practise gratitude (I note 3 things I’m grateful for each day) but my favourite is aloe bud, which allows me to check in with all aspects of my life and keep on top of my thoughts. If you want to take a break from screens, journalling is a good alternative as well as reading. The most popular method of relaxing is listening to music which i also can recommend.
Please note that if you feel like you need more immediate help, then you can click here for a document full of websites, messengers and helplines that you can use, no matter what your problem. I think the most accessible is the Samaritans (uk & roi) which is a free, 24 hour helpline that you can reach by dialling 116 123. Please please please seek help if you are feeling suicidal or depressed.
In conclusion, you are not alone. So many people in this world experience issues with their mental health, there is someone who understands what you’ve been through, somewhere. Be brave and seek help, it will be difficult (recovery always is) but you will look back and be so thankful. I know I am. and finally, be kind. You don’t know what other people are going through and you should try to make your impact on the world a positive one. Please use the resources I have mentioned if you are affected by anything in this article or get in touch with me via social media or email if you have any personal comments or questions.
here is a link to a google form which is totally anonymous and will be open forevermore where you can rant or tell me about any issues you may be having. if you would like a response you can leave your contact info but it is open to anyone, no matter whether you wish to be anonymous or not. I will read every single one.