09 May 2022
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s theme is “the experience of loneliness, its effect on our mental health and how we can all play a part in reducing loneliness in our communities.”
Young people’s mental health – a national issue
At London Youth, we know that young people’s mental health and wellbeing is a national crisis. The pandemic has only exacerbated this. Young people get lonely too, but the issue is often overlooked. A study by The Prince’s Trust found that after two years of Covid-19 restrictions, 35% of people aged 16-25 say they’ve never felt more alone. They also found that 40% of young people say they now feel anxious about socialising.
Young Londoners disproportionately impacted
Another study specific to loneliness in London commissioned by Deputy Mayor Debbie Weekes-Bernard confirmed that “severe loneliness is unequally distributed.”
Loneliness also disproportionately affects people who already face structural inequality and disadvantages. People of colour, LGBTQ+ people and young people are all groups with “a disproportionately high number of severely lonely people.”
Over half of the young people on our programmes live in the most deprived communities. 73% of young people are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
We’ve always believed the relationships young people have with their youth workers and the safe spaces offered by youth organisations should be a crucial part of the solution. This is borne out by experience and feedback of our members. But there is a wider issue at play which is a growing concern: youth workers say they face “an uphill struggle persuading people to socialise in real life rather than online.” And girls are particularly affected: they’ve been spending up to 19 hours a day in front of a screen (The Prince’s Trust).
Connecting young people
Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve put provision in place to assist our members in combating the above and supporting young people, and our programmes and members’ activities have been a lifeline for nearly 5,000 young people and often the only contact they’ve had with people of a similar age.
Our flagship mental health programme Good for Girls supports young women to access relevant, holistic early intervention mental health support, creating mental health hubs in trusted community spaces.
Creating mental health hubs in our communities
Good for Girls helps youth clubs become mental health hubs and extend the support for young women outside of school. Trained youth professionals create safe spaces where young women feel able to talk about their mental health and learn tools to manage their wellbeing.
Good for Girls has enabled 29 youth organisations to support, encourage and empower 600 girls and young women through sport, art and other wellbeing activities. We delivered 541 hours of training for youth workers, building their skills and knowledge of mental health and wellbeing. 100% of the youth workers who took part say they have a better understanding of the mental health support young people need and what they need to provide this.
Creating lasting change
Good youth work works to combat loneliness and isolation among young people. The government has committed to develop a cross-government, 10 year plan for mental health and wellbeing, and is currently leading a consultation exercise. We will be putting the voice of young people at the centre of our response to this consultation, and in our wider policy work. We are working both as London Youth, and in coalition to actively engage in conversations about placing young people’s mental health firmly on the government’s youth agenda.
Mental Health Awareness Week is vital to highlight the issues facing a generation of young people. We must act to ensure they get the support they so vitally need.