Mental Health Among Students in the UK
Millennials are considered an anxious generation, which is often attributed to an obsession with technology, overbearing parents and the stress that comes with trying to fit into a social media-driven world. But, according to experts, the anxiety and often depression experienced by young adults lies in uncertainty.
Anxiety is not a new concept, but according to recent reports, young people are experiencing more of these feelings at an alarming rate. Recent reports have also revealed that UK pupils are the least happy in the world, which means that these feelings of anxiety could begin in high school. More studies show that a third of young women and one in 10 young men suffer from panic attacks.
So, what is to blame for the recent rise in anxiety among young people?
So Many Choices, So Little Time
While the rise of technology and pushy parents are certainly contributing factors, psychologists suggest that it is the uncertainty of the future that impacts students the most. Experts suggest that the current generation of university students experience greater pressure than previous generations due to increased study costs and a highly competitive job market.
Today, millennials spend more time studying compared to previous generations, have more competition in their career, and find it more difficult to achieve job satisfaction. They also marry later in life, spending a larger portion of their lives making it on their own.
While uncertainty over things like careers, relationships and social acceptance are normal triggers for anxiety, just looking at the number of students experiencing mental health problems prove that there is a real issue.
Can You Even?
Official mental health statistics show that mental disorder, distress, and feelings of depression among millennials are at an all-time high, more than trebling in the last few years. Additional data reveals even more shocking numbers:
- 1,180 students left university in early 2014 -15 due to mental health problems
- 8 million people suffer from some form of anxiety disorder in the UK
- 50% of mental health problems occur by the age of 14 and 75% by age 24
- Almost five times as many students suffer from a mental health condition compared to 10 years ago
- More than 15,000 students in the UK disclosed a mental health issue in 2015 -16, compared to 3,000 in 2006
- 87,914 students requested counselling in 2015 -16, a 28% rise from 2013 - 14
- In 2015, 2.5% of female students and 1.4% of male students disclosed a mental health issue compared to 0.5% for both sexes in 2009 -10
Throwing Shade at Social Media
According to a recent survey, Instagram has been named the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing. Almost 1,500 teens and young adults across the UK were surveyed, with the consensus being that the photos featured on the platform contributes to high levels of anxiety and depression, bullying, body image issues, and FOMO - the fear of missing out.
The survey was conducted on various popular social media platforms, where the participants were asked to rate how each of the platforms impacts various health and wellbeing-related issues, including anxiety, depression, loneliness, sleep, self-expression, body image, bullying and more. The social platforms that were used in this survey included YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. Among these platforms, YouTube received the highest scores for health and wellbeing, with Twitter coming in second, followed by Facebook, Snapchat and finally Instagram.
But, the survey also includes the benefits of social networking. All the platforms received positive scores for self-expression and self-identify, community building and awareness, as well as providing access to health and wellbeing related information.
Previous studies have also suggested that the more social media sites a young person uses, the more likely he or she is to report anxiety and depression. Since social media posts often depict aspirational and often unattainable lifestyles, these create feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem.
To reduce these feelings of anxiety and inadequacy, the Royal Society is calling for social media companies to make changes, including introducing a pop-up warning for ‘heavy usage’ as well as identifying users suffering from mental health problems by their posts, and highlighting when photos of people have been digitally altered or manipulated.
Diane Gault, head of fundraising at YoungMinds adds, “Social media is one of the many pressures young people face today. Though it can have many benefits, helping young people to express themselves and offering them the opportunity to build communities that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to, it also puts pressure on them to establish a personal ‘brand’, to be constantly available, and to seek reassurance in the form of ‘likes'. We’re grateful for the generous fundraising from Fresh PG, which will help us continue our work fighting for young people’s mental health”.
Stay Woke with These Stress Busters
While this may be difficult in times of extreme anxiety or depression, thinking positively will help you clear your head. Instead of self-affirmations like, 'I will pass this test', say things like, 'I will do my best' to gain a clearer perspective on what's important. This takes a certain degree of effort, especially when thoughts are steering off course, but with practice, you will be able to halt negative thoughts and steer them into more productive areas.
Develop a study strategy that works
Exams will always be stressful but developing a strict study method could eliminate the anxiety and stress associated with cramming the night before. While tests can be overwhelming, cramming at the last minute and not sleeping enough will simply sabotage the ability to concentrate, making the whole process counterproductive. Breaking down large projects into smaller tasks, setting deadlines and keeping track of your work are ways of studying smart.
Getting up and moving around is a natural way to clear your head and release built-up stress and tension. Not only that, doing mild exercise can also boost your mood, reduce anxiety, and help you think more clearly.
Feed the brain and body
Having a well-balanced diet is one of the best ways to feel good about yourself, and it’s beneficial to the brain as well. We often forget about the power of nutritional foods as student life often calls for quick fixes like fast food. But, healthy food has a great effect on your mood, and energy and concentration levels. Adding foods like oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, yoghurt, nuts, milk, and eggs to a diet can work wonders
Focus on the present
Instead of rehashing mistakes and failures, focus on the present moment, what your goals are and how you are planning to achieve them. By learning healthy coping strategies, you can manage stressful situations more easily, while maintaining your wellbeing and mental health.
Talk to your friends and family members
Easier said than done, talking to anyone about your mental health can be a daunting experience. What many students do not realise is that your peers could be experiencing similar feelings of anxiety and stress and dealing with them together could prove helpful. Family members could also act as valuable confidantes during difficult times and may be able to provide you with the help you need or may simply offer comfort during a tough time.
Get in Touch
Anxiety UK – Charity providing support if you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety condition
Phone: 08444 775 774
Depression Alliance – Charity for sufferers of depression
Mental Health Foundation – Offers support and information to anyone with mental health problems
No Panic – Charity supporting sufferers of panic attacks and OCD
Phone: 0844 967 4848
Papyrus – Young suicide prevention society
Phone: 0800 068 4141
Samaritans – Support for people experiencing feelings of despair, distress, or depression
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
YoungMinds – Information on child and adolescent mental health
Phone: Parent’s helpline – 0808 802 5544
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