Mental health 'timebomb' needs defusing

(Photo: Jesse Therrien)

Constant and unprecedented social pressures are leading to a mental health 'timebomb' among young people, campaigners warn today.

Over half of the 11-14 year olds surveyed by mental health charity Youngminds said they had watched pornography online, with 40% of those saying it had affected their relationships.

Forty per cent of the same age group admitted to skipping meals to get thin, half have been bullied, and a third said they didn not know where to go when they felt depressed.

Youngminds surveyed 2,000 participants between the ages of 11 and 25 to coincide with the launch of a new campaign entitled "Youngminds Vs".

The campaign aims to tackle the five biggest mental health issues facing young people, identified as sexual pressure, bullying, school stress, unemployment, and access to help.

Lucie Russell, Director of Media and Campaigns said: "Every day we hear about the unprecedented toxic climate children and young people face in a 24/7 online culture where they can never switch off.

"We are really proud and excited to be a giving a platform for thousands of young people who will be building a mass movement that will lead to better mental health and wellbeing of young people across the UK."

Among those backing the campaign is singer Frankie Sandford, from the pop group The Saturdays.

Ms Sandford, who has previously discussed battling her depression, said: "I get to talk to a lot of young people and I know there are so many who are really suffering and struggling with life.

"That's why I really support the YoungMinds Vs campaign because it's raising awareness of the importance of young people having good mental health and everything that can be done to make that happen, including young people getting access to help when they need it."

Labour leader Ed Miliband has also expressed his support for Youngminds campaign, saying on Sky News: "Mental health is the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age, and young people's mental health must be a top priority for Britain."

The warning came as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today announced a mental health action plan to improve mental health standards across the UK.

He highlighted that one in four people will face mental health issues at some point in their lifetime, and that mental health issues cost the economy £105bn per year.

"We recognise that we've got a mountain to climb. Physical health has been the priority in our health service for years," said Mr Clegg.

He also noted that severe mental health problems can reduce life expectancy for a man by 20 years and 15 years for a woman.

"It's a call to action – across the NHS, the mental health sector and wider society – to champion change, to transform outdated attitudes and practices and to improve the lives of people with mental health problems," he said.

"All too often, attitudes to mental health are outdated; stuck in the dark ages; full of stigma and stereotypes."

The plan includes:

  • Giving mental health patients the same legal rights to doctor choice as other patients.
  • Widening the options to include the voluntary sector.
  • Clarifying NHS mental health waiting times standards, so patients know the kinds of treatment they'll be receiving, and when.