Helping young people with mental health

Helping young people with mental health

stem4 Founder & CEO, Consultant Clinical Psychologist Dr. Nihara Krause, talks about some of the common mental health problems in young people, and what we can do to help

Youth Mental Health Day 2023

This year, stem4’s Youth Mental Health Day is on 19 September. The annual campaign encourages understanding and discussion of mental health in young people, enabling them to live happy and healthy lives all year round. Each year, stem4’s Youth Mental Health Day aims to get young people, and those who support them, talking about how to improve mental health.

This year’s Youth Mental Health Day will focus on how young people can #BeBrave. By focusing on building confidence in difficult situations, building social confidence by working with peers, and learning to have the courage to try new things, young people can learn what being brave means for them.

#stem4YMHD hopes to help give young people the courage and confidence they need to achieve everything they possibly can, and to learn they can overcome anything.


Common issues…

Whilst every generation has had its own struggles, teens today face a considerable number of issues. It’s vital to know what some of them are, the warning, signs, and how to support them.

Mental Health Difficulties

Around one in six young people aged 5–18 struggles with their mental health. Learning about the main mental health issues, early presenting symptoms, and engaging your young person in working towards change early will make a difference. Loneliness is a significant contributor to poor mental health and one which has increased significantly post-pandemic. Opportunities to catch up on lost interpersonal skills are vital.

Worries about Schoolwork and Careers

Many students have missed out on large chunks of learning, the practice of exams, and have even more competitive university and work requirements. A survey by the YMCA stated that 44% of young people were worried about job prospects and those who did have jobs were finding it difficult to integrate back into work easily, due to long periods of online working, were finding it difficult to integrate back into work easily.

The Impact of Technology

The rise in technological use has impacted self-image and also exposed some young people to cyberbullying. Whilst there are benefits to being online, there are potential harms which include risky behaviour, peer pressure, bullying, grooming, privacy issues, and dependency.

The Importance of Talking

Parents and carers should strive to have an ongoing conversation with their young person, and help them to feel comfortable bringing up issues without a fear of being told off. This does make it difficult if the behaviour requires discipline, but try and understand why the behaviour is happening in the first place instead of punishing it. Listening is not always easy, but be patient. Connect regularly and positively, over a task often helps, for example, while taking the dog for a walk, driving somewhere, or baking.

Warning Signs

Different mental health conditions have specific warning signs but, in general, you should look out for:
• changes in terms of communication

(withdrawn, quiet, apathetic, or consistently negative);

• showing a number of negative behaviours

(increased risk behaviour, over sleeping, getting into trouble, drop in performance);

• displaying physical changes that are worrying

(loss/gain of weight, constant ill health / recurring pain that is not due to a physical cause);

• marked social changes (not seeing their friends, increased online activity, negative friendships).

What Can You Do?

Keep talking and listening, model healthy coping behaviours, keep routines at home, provide positive feedback, understand what might be being communicated through negative behaviours, read up about mental health conditions, and find out where you can seek support.

If your young person is trying to support a friend in distress, encourage them to keep connecting with the friend but also to look after themselves. This means working towards encouraging their friend to seek support for their problems whilst maintaining the friendship, as well as learning to say no and to step away if it’s all getting too much.

Schools and colleges are actively developing student mental health support schemes and systems. Find out what your school or college offers by reading the website, talking to the head of year, pastoral team/ head, and get their help in seeking help.