New research from mental health charity Mind says parents are so worried about young people it’s giving them sleepless nights.
My daughter’s mental health started to get worse about halfway through the first lockdown. Divorced from the structure of school (which she loves), over the initial thrill of Zoom discos and virtual group playdates, my then-seven-year-old started to lash out, threatening to run away, having titanic meltdowns and even making us worried she might harm herself.
It was a terrifying time – some of which we’re probably still working through – and one that was brought back to me vividly when I read about Mind’s new survey of 40000 parents and grandparents. The broad results indicate young people’s mental health is worse than ever before and there is less opportunity for parents to access support.
The data revealed fewer than two in 10 parents (15%) believe the UK Government is doing enough to support young people’s mental health, with seven in 10 (71%) saying it is difficult for young people to get NHS mental health support.
The poll also shows that one in three (34%) grandparents say that mental health is their biggest concern for their grandchildren’s generation.
I have anxiety that I medicate with a small daily dose of antidepressant and as much as I hate to think about it and as much as I try not to, I fear some of that high-strungedness (it’s a word, okay?) has been passed on to my daughter.
The return of some kind of normalcy, alongside my mental health improvement and a small reduction in the world’s existential fear, has meant my kid is not currently suffering in the same way she did during the dark days of 2020/1.
But I’m minded, no pun intended, to agree with Mind CEO Paul Farmer, who recently said, “Over four in five of all parents are worried about the long-term impact of the pandemic on their children…Recent figures show that one in six children aged five to 16 identified as having a probable mental health problem in July 2021*.
“By not acting now the UK government risks failing a whole generation,” he continued. “The provision of a network of early support hubs for young people across England would make sure 11-25-year-olds have somewhere to go when they first start to struggle – rather than being left to reach crisis point and needing more intensive – and expensive – support. The earlier a young person gets support for their mental health, the more effective that support is likely to be.”
Natalie Bailey, Chair of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, also argues this can have a sizeable impact on parents’ wellbeing – I am testament to that. Sitting with my daughter in the garden watching her crying and repeating, “I just want to be happy” over and over is one of my lowest moments.
My wife and I are prepared to put in the work. But parents need to know there is a strong, functioning safety net as well, especially if both are working and you’re juggling a cost-of-living crisis alongside your own mental health and being parent to another child.
We’re in this together. Let’s start acting like it.